“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself. I was part of the MacCumhaills team that won the County hurling title last year and that was a great feeling and when I finally got an opportunity to walk up the steeps of the Hogan Stand last Saturday afternoon with my four year old nephew Daniel I thought that would take some beating. However, when Ella May was born on Monday morning that topped the lot – without a doubt,” he said.
Jamesie’s partner, Claire McDermott from Glenfin, was admitted into Letterkenny General Hospital on Saturday – the day of the final.
“Claire was overdue and we knew that she would be going in on Saturday. She’s from a big GAA family and knows that hurling is my first love. We made the decision that I go on ahead to Dublin and play in the final against Tyrone and I was delighted that we won.
“I left the boys to celebrate afterwards and headed back to Donegal and Letterkenny hospital straight after the match. I was there all day Sunday and at 9.30am on Monday morning Ella May was born. Thankfully, both mother and baby were grand and they got home yesterday (Wednesday). Ella May weighed nine pounds. She’s a big girl like her dad,” he laughed.
“I’m had some good and bad days on the field of play but being present at the birth of my daughter beats anything I’ve achieved to date hands down,” he said.
Jamesie Donnelly was a member of the Donegal team which lost out to Mayo in the 2003 All Ireland Junior final while he also played in the Nicky Rackard decider in 2006, a game won by neighbours Derry. He would also play in the Lory Meagher defeats (Tyrone 2009 and Longford 2010) at Croke Park.
“I’ve torn my cruciate twice and dislocated the shoulder on a number of occasions. I’ve missed quite a few games down through the years but Saturday’s victory was just reward for all our efforts.
“I really thought that we had the Cup won in 2009 when we were ten points up against Tyrone with just twelve or thirteen minutes to play but we somehow managed to lose that game. Unfortunately, these things can happen in hurling,” he sighed.
Fast forward two years to last Saturday afternoon. Tyrone led by two points with time almost up and it looked like Donegal would have to settle for a sixth final defeat (they also lost the All Ireland Junior final to Roscommon in 2001).
Step forward Jamesie’s MacCumhaills team mate Ciaran Matthewson to hit the net in the 69th minute, his second goal of the game, and the Donegal defence held firm as Tyrone mounted a couple of last ditch attacks in search of an equaliser than never came.
“Boys like Mickey McCann, Niall Campbell, Eugene Organ, Colm Breathnach and myself have been waiting a long, long time for the opportunity to walk up the steps of the Hogan Stand,” he said.
“While the players deserve every credit most of the plaudits should go to manager Andrew Wallace. He left no stone unturned this year and there was a great unity within the squad. We were far more committed to the cause this year. We’ve had too many long drives home from Dublin having lost finals. We were determined it wasn’t going to happen again in 2011. Andrew brought in former Clare All Ireland winning captain Anthony Daly to training last week. He’s a born winner and told us that he’s no different to any of us – just an ordinary man with a hunger and desire to succeed,” he said.
“Ciaran (Matthewson) was the star of the show. He’s a fantastic player and we knew that on the wide open spaces of Croke Park he had the pace to kill anyone and so it proved,” he said.
While Jamesie is enjoying all that comes with being a dad he already has one eye on retaining the county title with MacCumhaills.
“Most of the hurling talk in Donegal resolves around two clubs – Burt and Setanta. We spoiled the party last year and with a bit of luck we’ll be there or thereabouts once more this time around,” he said.