The Best XV I have Played Against: Joe Friel

Joe Friel enjoyed a long and fruitful career with his club Cloughaneely.

He first lined out for his club at senior level when he was 15 against local rivals Gaoth Dobhair and went on to play until he was 35.

Friel also spent three years with St Vincent’s when he lived in Dublin, and played Minor, Under 21, and Senior Football for Donegal.


He went up against some top quality players during his career, and has this week picked the best fifteen he has faced.

Paul Durcan (Four Masters)

Paul was a brilliant goalkeeper with a huge kick-out. He was a real presence around the square, but also had a calming influence. I don’t know if people realised how good of a footballer he was. Paul played a few times at full-forward for Four Masters, but he could have played anywhere on the field.

Damien Diver

Damian Diver (Ardara)

Damian was a super player for Ardara and he was a real Rolls Royce type player with a great engine. I would have played with him from when I was twenty, and I was always full of admiration for him because he was the perfect role model both on and off the field.

Neil McGee (Gaoth Dobhair)

Neil has arguably been the best full-back this county ever seen. If I had to use one word to describe him it would be ‘solid’. I remember one day we were playing Gaoth Dobhair, and Neil’s brother Peter came on. Peter was young enough at the time, and he decided he was going to throw me a dunt to show me he was there. But I saw it coming and met it head on. The next thing all I heard was the thumping of steps and Neil was coming down to say hello too.

Karl Lacey (Four Masters)


Karl was a brilliant footballer and he went on to have a great career. He was a tight-marking defender but he was also very comfortable on the ball, and was an excellent reader of the match.

Karl Lacey.

Patrick McConigley (Gaeil Fhánada)

I would have played an awful lot against Fanad and Paddy was their main man and drove them on. He was unlucky that he got that bad eye injury, because he was playing really well at that time. We beat Fanad after a third game in the Intermediate final in 2006, but I can honestly say hand on heart, if Paddy had been home from London in time for those games, we wouldn’t have won.

Barry Monaghan (Four Masters)

Barry was a consistent performer for Four Masters. He was a great reader of the game, and he could dictate an entire match from centre half-back. I would have seen him in action with the county too, and he looked after himself and was always very fit.

Frank McGlynn (Glenfin)

Frank had very different roles with Donegal and Glenfin. He was an important part of the Donegal team because he could mark opponents and get on the ball. But with Glenfin, he was their go-to man and he would start all their attacks from deep. Opposition teams would have to sacrifice a forward just to run after Frank.

Frank McGlynn, Donegal.

Neil Gallagher (Glenswilly)

I can honestly say that Neil Gallagher was the toughest man I ever came up against in midfield. He was always a fantastic fetcher but he worked at his game. At the start, he wasn’t great at kick-passing but he really worked at that side of his game and developed into one of the best midfielders in the country. His performance against Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final was the best midfield display I’ve ever seen. Absolutely colossal.

John Gildea (Naomh Conaill)

John Gildea was a brute of a man and it was never enjoyable playing against him. He wasn’t the tallest midfielder but he was so strong and at club level, he would just throw men away if they came anywhere near him. John was a very important leader for Glenties when their young team started to break through.

Christy Toye (St Michael’s)

Christy was a speed merchant. He had blistering pace and if you got a hand on him at all, you were doing well. He was also very good at winning ball in the air, and had so much natural ability. Christy made everything look so easy.

Christy Toye St Michael’s

Brian Roper (Aodh Ruadh)

Roper was a wee gurrier on the field. For all the size of him, he was so brave, and when he was on form, he could beat a lot of teams by himself. He changed his style over the years too. When he first appeared, he was a goalscorer, but he changed into a hard-working half-forward like Brian Dooher later in his career.

Rory Kavanagh (St Eunan’s)

Rory was one of the most gifted players to play for Donegal. I hated marking him because he was so athletic and had savage pace. He was really stylish on the ball too, and fitted into Jim McGuinness’s plans perfectly.

Adrian Sweeney (Dungloe)

I don’t think there was a sweeter left foot in Donegal than Adrian’s, and he also had great strength. Tony Boyle was the main man for Dungloe and Donegal, and then Adrian took up the baton when he was near the end. He was probably unlucky not to win more with club and county given his service.

Michael Murphy (Glenswilly)

I remember the first day that Murphy landed up to county training. He was only 17 and I didn’t have a clue who he was. There was a kick-out sent to the middle of the field, and myself and big Neil were wrestling for it. And then out of nowhere, this young fella rose above both of us, caught the ball and scored a point. I went home that night and told the wife that Donegal had a special player coming through. I played against Glenswilly a good few times, and he always destroyed us. We could never handle him.

Michael Murphy. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Colm McFadden (St Michael’s)

Colm was a brilliant player for St Michael’s and he was actually probably under-rated in Donegal. He could win a game in five minutes. There were days when he scored 1-10 or 1-11, but there were other games when he would score a goal and a couple of points in the space of a few minutes, and that would be the difference.

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