PRIDE of place this week goes to Kilcar’s Ryan McHugh who has been named on the 2016 All-Star Football team.
It’s a great achievement for the player and an honour for his club, county and family. All-Stars aren’t easily won, especially when your county doesn’t reach the semi-final stages of the All-Ireland series. That said, Ryan has had an outstanding year for Donegal and it’s great to see him get this reward – well deserved. As always, there are a few interesting selections in the team. It’s nice to see Tipperary represented in the shape of Michael Quinlivan who becomes the Premier County’s first All-Star since Declan Browne, while Mayo goalkeeper, David Clarke, dropped ahead of the All-Ireland final replay, is also included which is probably unique in its own right. Ryan is one of three Ulster players on the team, joining Tyrone’s Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly – both of whom had outstanding years for the Red Hands.
I attended the U21 final between Gaoth Dobhair and Aodh Ruadh, Ballyshannon, on Monday. Afterwards, people were saying that it was the best game they had seen this year but I would go further and say it’s the best game I’ve seen in recent years.
Both teams went at it from the throw-in, using attack as the best form of defence, fully believing in their own ability to outscore their opponents. While it was Gaoth Dobhair who finally managed to get over the line, the game was in the balance until the final few minutes. Great credit to both teams and also to referee, Jimmy White, who adopted a common sense approach.
I don’t care too much for this rule or that rule of whether it should be a black, yellow or red card. I would much prefer to see a referee use common sense. Jimmy did that and contributed to a fine game. The only disappointing thing about the day was the small attendance at MacCumhaill Park and the big losers were those who stayed away. The game had everything – high fetching, long range scores and some great defending. Gaoth Dobhair scored 2-19 – all of which came from play. Enough said.
I was in Newry on Sunday afternoon to watch the Glenswilly v Kilcoo Ulster Club Championship game. Kilcoo are one of the fancied teams to win Ulster this year. They’ve won five in a row in Down and they’re seen as one of the big guns at this stage, but for long periods of the game Glenswilly more than matched them. They had no answer to Michael Murphy inside and the turning point came eight minutes into the second half when he off-loaded to Cathal Gallagher who, unfortunately for him, hit his shot the wrong side of the upright. A goal at that stage would have put Glenswilly five clear and they would probably have gone on to win the game. Two minutes later, Kilcoo converted a penalty and Gallagher was sent off. All of a sudden they were a point down and playing with fourteen men and the Glen men didn’t recover. That said, it’s been a great year for Glenswilly. At the start of the year, their main aim would have been first division survival before they gathered momentum in the championship and went on a roll with Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher both playing really well. They would go on to win a third senior Donegal title – something no one would have predicted a few months earlier.
Elsewhere over the weekend Downings recorded a good victory over Derry champions Magilligan in Celtic Park. They now travel to play Monaghan holders Blackhill next weekend. It will be a difficult ask as club football in Monaghan is strong at present.
The destination of the Division One League trophy will be decided when Naomh Conaill play Kilcar in Glenties. It’s a winner takes all scenario, although a draw will do Kilcar, with the Glenties men still reeling from their heavy semi-final championship defeat at the hands of the same team. At the end of the day it’s the next big title on offer after the Championship and it will provide some sort of consolation for whichever team comes out on top on Sunday. It’s a game which I feel will be much closer than the semi-final, but I still feel that Kilcar will shade it, but only just. Naomh Conaill will be without the services of Seamus Corcoran who damaged a cruciate ligament in the second half of that semi-final loss to Kilcar. He had a great year and we wish him a speedy recovery.
I was unable to attend Donal Reid’s recent book launch as I was in London, but it’s a very good read.
Donal was one of the real characters of Donegal football and he was a real good wing half back in his day. The book is well worth a read. All proceeds from same go to a very worthy cause in Pieta House and I wish him well with his book.