BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NEIL McGee will become the latest Donegal centenarian tomorrow evening.
When he runs out to Croke Park for Donegal’s opening National Football League clash with Kildare at Croke Park, the 27-year old Gaoth Dobhair man will do so for the 100th time.
In doing so, he’ll become the sixth current player to reach the magical mark, joining Christy Toye, Colm McFadden, Rory Kavanagh, Karl Lacey and Eamon McGee in the elite club.
Another piece of Donegal history will be penned as Neil joins Eamon in becoming the first set of brothers to both play 100 times for the Donegal senior football team. Eamon made his 100th appearance in September’s All-Ireland final win over Mayo.
For Neil, the occasion of his 100th has serious importance too.
“There’s a lot of pride at stake here. We’re the All-Ireland champions going into Croke Park and we have responsibility with that,” the quiet-spoken double All-Star told the Donegal News yesterday afternoon.
“It’s definitely better to be going to Croke Park rather than some mucky field somewhere.
“Anytime we play in Dublin we always get a good following. Everyone in Donegal is mad for their football at the minute and we’ll want to put on a good display for them at the weekend.
“We also want to get a good result and we’re going down to Dublin to go all-out to win this game. We know where we’re at and we know where we want to go.”
Only for injury keeping him out of this weekend’s game, Neil Gallagher would also be marking his 100th game. Paul Durcan is next in line for the milestone – though he is two games away, not one as previous statistics showed a game extra for the Four Masters man from 2004.
Neil McGee’s mark comes eight years after Brian McEniff handed him his debut in a McKenna Cup tie with Fermanagh on 2nd January 2005.
“It’s a nice marker to get, but it seems to have come pretty quickly,” he said.
“I suppose with all the qualifier games now in the Championship you can get it quicker, but still it’s a nice milestone to reach as a Donegal player.
“Touch wood I’ve been lucky enough to avoid serious injuries. You’ll always get the odd wee knock or two and the odd bump and bang, but thankfully I haven’t had anything too serious.”
McGee admits he still thinks back to the magical September Sunday when Donegal became kings. But the line in the sand has been sketched by Jim McGuinness now.
“We have to move on to this year now,” McGee said.
“It’s good to be back in games again. We were all glad to get back to training after the holiday.
“We’ve had a good three or four weeks of training done, but it’s hard to know where we’ll be at come the throw-in. It’s hard to gauge.
“We’re the same as the Dubs last year in that all teams will be upping their game to play us. We’ll need to raise our own bar too.”
Donegal Together For Yes will launch its campaign at 6pm this evening, Friday, in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey.