Keith Hill conceded that the 19-year-old midfielder, who scored his first league goal for the club at Lincoln on Tuesday night, was taken off the pitch for his own protection after “running himself into the ground” in the 5-1 defeat.
The physical toll – along with that taken on winger Dennis Politic who also cramped up in the final minutes of the game – may mean Hill is forced to take the youngsters out of the team for Pompey’s visit.
“I don’t want to go into protective parent mode – but the distances Ronan is running, the tasks he’s being asked to do makes it very, very difficult for him,” he said. “You might say why not pick someone else who has more experience? We’ll have Jason Lowe back soon.
“He scored a great goal, Ronan. I believe in him, and I think he’ll have a long career. It will be a good career because he’s a quick learner and he wants to learn.”
Unfortunately for Hill, the decision to change Darcy for Harry Brockbank, who moved into an unfamiliar left-back role, backfired. Wanderers conceded three goals in the last five minutes to give the scoreline a much more one-sided look.
“Ronan looked fatigued and he’d picked up a yellow card,” the manager reasoned. “I wanted to at least salvage a draw out of the game so I put Ethan Hamilton back into midfield.”
“I’d rather make the changes to make the result better but unfortunately it ended up making it worse. The responsibility is mine, it belongs to me, and I’ll carry it.”
Hill believes defensive mistakes in the last 15 minutes plus Wanderers’ failure to retain possession, particularly in the second half, ultimately cost them a share of the spoils at Lincoln.
But he was not about to go overboard in his analysis, claiming he would take any criticism which came his way over the performance.
“I want the players to allow me to protect them as much as I can,” he said. “But when they go out there they have to be responsible for themselves. Whether you are 17, 18 or 36, you are responsible for decisions you make on the pitch, that’s the game of football.
“Learning can’t always be about talking. The players have got to learn from their experiences.
“I can’t stress out about players making the mistakes. I hold the responsibility, the axe falls on my head, I’ve got no worries with that and I’ll support this group of players for making mistakes because I am selecting them, because they are available, because they are representing BWFC.
“But it is difficult because it’s the small margins and the mistakes which are preventing us from getting results.”
After three successive defeats, Hill must now try to spur his players on to improvement against a Portsmouth team which has won five of their last seven in all competitions.
Despite the odds stacking against the Whites once again, the Bolton boss believes his younger players will emerge stronger from the ordeals they have been through this season.
“You have got to try and enjoy the difficulty. It’s never going to be easy, even when you are successful because there are always more problems which come up,” he said.
“At this moment in time everyone wants to kick us. Accept it. Take a few to the ribs, take a few to the stomach, we’ll get up and fight again.
“Never surrender, never retreat.”