Not for the first time this year, I have to offer my heartiest congratulations to Naomh Colmcille after they reached the All-Ireland Junior semi-final last week.
People may think that a trip to Edinburgh around Christmas time would be a bit of a party, but the Newtown lads were over there to win a game and that’s what they did.
It’s funny how things work out because they spent a lot of time organising the trip, booked a hotel out of the way in Livingston, and then went over on Thursday so that they wouldn’t be tired from all the travelling the day before the match.
They were leaving no stone unturned, but sometimes things that are outside your control get in the way.
The team encountered the aftermath of a car crash on route to the pitch, and that delayed them meaning they only got to the ground twenty minutes before throw-in.
Their warm-up was rushed and they didn’t get going in the first half, but still managed to get over the line, and now they are only 60 minutes away from an appearance in Croke Park.
It’s a remarkable achievement and it’s not that long ago that Naomh Colmcille were struggling to even win a game in Division 4.
But they stuck at it, and over the space of a couple of years, their fortunes started to turn.
There were always plenty of good players in the area, but it was about gelling it all together. There was a lot of soccer played in the vicinity, and they weren’t getting their best men to pull on the red and white shirt.
The tide started to turn when Stephen Friel became manager, and they made a lot of progress quickly once he mobilised them.
They won the Junior Championship, and then started to make an impression at Intermediate grade.
They got the scent of success then and while there have been ups and downs, Naomh Colmcille are a much stronger club now then what they were 10 years ago.
They’ve had a tough route and will now face the Cork champions Knocknagree after Christmas, but there’s no reason whey they can’t go on to become the first Donegal club to reach the All-Ireland Junior Final.
There will be a great buzz around Newtown this Christmas, but the players will have to keep an eye on the amount of turkey they eat, and ensure that the festivities aren’t too hectic.
A great run like they are enjoying can really transform an area and bring the whole community together. I know a lot of supporters went over to Edinburgh last week and that weekend will live long in their memory.
Naomh Colmcille are flying the flag for Donegal, and let’s hope the whole county gets behind them as they bid for a place in the All-Ireland Final at Croke Park.
New Donegal Jersey
I was in the Abbey Hotel earlier this week as the new Donegal jersey was launched and I’m sure it will be popular with GAA supporters in the county.
It’s a nice design, and Michael Murphy and Paddy McGrath were present to perform the modelling duties.
Paddy was wearing the number 14 shirt, and people were asking me if he’s changing positions, but I have always said that every jersey is up for grabs!
Paddy is doing very well as he recovers from his cruciate ligament injury. He’s putting a huge effort into his rehab work and is ahead of schedule.
I’d be hoping to see Paddy on the pitch in the new year, and he’ll be determined to make sure he is given one of our new jerseys on May 13 when we play Cavan in the Preliminary Round in Ulster.
Down through the years, the Abbey Hotel was always regarded as the spiritual home of Donegal football and it was where we went to celebrate our big victories.
I remember when Dom and Mary Breslin owned it and they were great backers of Donegal GAA then. Dom was a true gael.
It has changed hands since, yet the Abbey’s passion for Donegal GAA has remained, and Liam Clancy and Michael Burke are wonderful supporters of the association in the county.
It’s good news that they are back on the jersey as our Tier 2 sponsor, alongside the KN Group who have offered us great support as our main sponsor over the last two years.
Donagh Kelly is a Donegal man through and through, and he is very accommodating no matter what you ask of him or the KN Group.
O’Neill’s are manufacturing the jersey and have been working with Donegal since 2014.
They are a Northwest company, and employ over 200 Donegal people in their factory in Strabane.
The County Treasurer Cieran Kelly mentioned at the launch that it’s a new beginning for Donegal GAA.
We have a new senior, Under 20 and minor manager in football, while Mickey McCann has taken over the reins of the county hurlers.
We also have a new chairman after Mick McGrath was elected last Friday at a low-key county convention.
Mick served his time on committees at county, provincial, and national level, and he has earned his shot at the chair.
There’s plenty of work for him to do, but it’s a challenge that he will be well up for.
The main task will be getting the Training Centre at Convoy across the line.
It’s gone so far, and there are four excellent pitches at the venue, but we need to get the building up, and that has to be the number one priority going forward.
There are a lot of good people who are prepared to back Donegal GAA and I’m talking globally.
We can tap even more into that market to get the financial support that is needed now to compete with the elite counties.
It cost almost a million and a half euro to run Donegal GAA last year, and that figure is only going to rise in the future.
It’s big business now, and it will be Mick’s job to oversee all of that and I wish him well in the post.
I was saddened to hear of the death of Red Hugh’s clubman Hughie Gillespie last week.
I would have come up against Hughie and Red Hugh’s a lot down through the years, and they were always difficult games.
Hughie was one of the toughest competitors I played against, and we had many battles.
I’d like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family at this sad time.