Sept Winner – Neil McGee
NOT many Donegal players performed to their best in the All-Ireland final, but full-back Neil McGee once again delivered a masterful display. The big Gaoth Dobhair man had an excellent season in the Donegal number three jersey and he gave his all for the seventy minutes in the decider, winning the Donegal News Sports Personality Award for September.
It wasn’t to be Donegal’s day, but Jim McGuinness’s team never gave up the fight and they could have forced a replay in the dying seconds, when Colm McFadden’s fisted effort hit the post, but rebounded into the safe hands of Kerry’s Shane Enright.
There was a huge disappointment for Donegal after the match and it was an unfitting conclusion to the season for McGee, as he really deserved to pocket his second All-Ireland medal for his endeavours. McGee has been at the top of his game for the last five years and he thrives on marking the opposition’s star player.
This year, he marshalled Emmett McGuckin (Derry), Brian Neeson (Antrim), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Jamie Clarke (Armagh) and Bernard Brogan (Dublin) en route to the decider and he got the better of all his opponents. In the final, he was tasked with keeping tabs on James O’Donoghue, Kerry’s most prominent forward and the GAA’s next big star.
O’Donoghue was in sparkling form as the Kingdom defeated Cork in the Munster final, and he followed that up with stellar performances against Galway and Mayo in both semi-finals. However, he did not have it all his own way on the 21st of September when McGee picked him up.
Many pundits predicted that their duel would have a big say in deciding the destination of the Sam Maguire Cup. The Kerry star drifted out the field to try and get on the ball, but he was on the periphery of the game with McGee keeping a close eye. O’Donoghue was kept scoreless in the game, and he was actually outscored by his marker.
With Donegal chasing the game after Kieran Dongahy’s goal, McGee showed leadership and he powered his way up the field to slot over a brilliant point to reduce the deficit to three points. Donegal would go on to lose the All-Ireland final, but if anything the decider has enhanced McGee’s reputation as the best defender in the land.
He was nominated for Footballer of the Year, a prize almost exclusively fought out for by the highscoring forwards and glittering midfielders of the game. The Donegal defender didn’t win the award, but to be recognised as one of the top three players in the country is a remarkable achievement.
He collected the All-Star award for full-back last week, becoming only the second Donegal man ever to win three All-Stars. Meath legend Liam Hayes wrote in his Irish Daily Mail column last Saturday that not only did McGee deserve to win Footballer of the Year, he stated that he was also possibly the best full-back of all time.
There is no higher praise than that for the Gaoth Dobhair clubman who continues to excel in the green and gold of Donegal. GAA – SEPTEMBER SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE MONTH McGee continues to excel in the green and gold of Donegal Donegal News sports reporter Chris McNulty presentes Neil McGee with the Donegal News Sport Personality of the Month award for September. Photo Brian McDaid Neil McGee in action for the county.