Ryan Ferry breaks down all 39 teams in Donegal club football, and sees where they rank ahead of the 2021 season. Last year’s rankings in brackets.
1. Naomh Conaill (1)
With the Donegal SFC final yet to be played, Naomh Conaill are still the reigning holders of the Dr Maguire Cup, and remain the team to beat in the county. They made light work of their opponents on the way through to the County semi-final but were pushed all the way by St Eunan’s and needed a superb Ciaran Thompson winner to see of the Letterkenny men. Some of their more experienced players are pushing on in age now, but they have great depth, and Robbie McDonnell and Daniel Gildea, who played for the county minors against Tyrone, should add to that in 2021.
2. Kilcar (3)
Kilcar are the bookies’ favourites to win the County Final so they may feel they should have top billing in the rankings. However, it is a few years since they were crowned champions, and while they were impressive in 2020, there are still some lingering doubts. There were a few changes under the guidance of John McNulty with veterans Michael Hegarty and Conor McShane reduced to peripheral figures, while young Ryan McShane impressed in his debut season. The word going is that there isn’t a huge amount of talent on the way through, so this golden generation of Kilcar footballers will be hoping to make 2021 count.
3. St Eunan’s (4)
St Eunan’s are knocking heavily on the door and it seems like only a matter of time before they barge through. They went very close again to a county final berth in 2020, and were aggrieved by some of the decisions that went against them in the semi-final. The Letterkenny men also weren’t helped by Conor Morrison’s unfortunate injury, and they will be without a key defender and leader for the majority of next season. Shane O’Donnell and Padraig McGettigan broke through to the starting fifteen last season, and it will be interesting to see if any other youngsters like Ciaran Moore or Eoin Dowling can make their mark next season. Rory Kavanagh has taken over as senior manager from Richard Thornton, and winning the Donegal SFC for the first time since 2014 is surely his target.
4. Gaoth Dobhair (2)
After a couple of brilliant campaigns, Gaoth Dobhair were off the pace in 2020. They still won all their group games, but were fortunate to see off Sean MacCumhaill’s in the quarter-finals on home turf. They were then well beaten by Kilcar in the county semi-final. The Mervyn O’Donnell era is over and it will be up to the joint-ticket of Kevin Cassidy and Joe Duffy, as well as trainer Maxi Curran to get them going once again. They do have potential coming through, and Eoin De Burca, Cian McEntee, Fionnan Coyle, and Stephen McFadden could all add some freshness to the Magheragallon men.
5. St Michael’s (6)
It was a case of what might have been last year as St Michael’s pushed Kilcar all the way in Towney in the quarter-finals. They left themselves with too much to do after a poor first half but did ask serious questions in the second half. It’s worth remembering that Michael Langan wasn’t anywhere near full tilt for that match either. St Michael’s were boosted by the return of the likes of Antoin McFadden and Stephen Doak last year but Christy Toye and Colm McFadden are now in the autumn of their careers. Last year’s manager Gary O’Neill has moved on but there still might be a kick in the Cresslough/Dunfanaghy men.
6. Sean MacCumhaill’s (9)
Sean MacCumhaill’s had a fine campaign under the guidance of Paul Rouse, and his right-hand man Seosamh Mac Ceallbhuí. They made it through to the last eight of the Senior Championship comfortably, and then almost ambushed Gaoth Dobhair but lost by a point. That will have been a sore defeat to get over. The Twin Towns men reached the County semi-finals in 2018 but then dropped off the following season and they will be hoping for greater consistency this time around. Oisin Gallen’s firepower makes them a team to watch, and if they can get Aaron Gillooley and Andrew McCloskey back fit, they will be a team to keep an eye on. Cian Mulligan is also a good prospect.
7. Bundoran (5)
Bundoran reached their fourth successive quarter-final this year so there’s no doubt that they are in the top eight teams in the county. However, they are some distance off the elite sides and that was demonstrated with the heavy defeat they received at the hands of St Eunan’s in the quarter-final. Terry McCann is expected to move on after one season, and finding the right person to bring the best out of this Bundoran team is an important task. There definitely is talented players to work with in the forwards, midfield, and defence, but they need to try and get all their top players to commit in 2021.
8. Glenfin (13)
Glenfin have proven to be an excellent championship team over the last three seasons. In 2018, they won the Intermediate Championship, and in each of the last two years, they reached the SFC quarter-finals. Things didn’t go so well against Naomh Conaill this year but in a tight and tough encounter, they are hard men to beat. Mark McGinty has decided to step down after two years in charge, and the club are hoping to finalise his replacement in the coming weeks. The Pairc Taobhoige side should be in the mix for a last eight berth again next year.
9. Killybegs (7)
2020 must have been a frustrating year for Killybegs. They were strongly tipped to make an impression in the championship after beating Gaoth Dobhair in a challenge game, however they couldn’t back it up when the real action commenced. Hugh McFadden had his injury problems and that was always going to have an impact on the Fishermen’s chances. However, they are still a young team who are on an upward trajectory, and county minors Dylan Murphy and Christopher Mulligan will help their cause in 2020.
10. Glenswilly (8)
There’s no disputing that Glenswilly are going through transition under Pauric Bonner. A lot of their seasoned campaigners stepped away last year with county medals in their back pocket and they can be happy with their lot. Bonner blooded a number of young players and the likes of Kealan Dunleavy and Jack Gallagher did superbly. They were well beaten by Kilcar and Naomh Conaill in the championship, and also lost to St Michael’s, but were deserving victors over Four Masters and that was good enough to stay out of the Relegation play-offs. Even with Michael Murphy in their ranks, the men from the Glen are no longer genuine contenders and a SFC quarter-final spot is a realistic target. Oisin McDaid is a young player that will probably be blooded.
11. St Naul’s (14)
It proved to be a decent championship campaign for St Naul’s. Good wins over Dungloe and Termon saw them stay up on four points which was a decent return. They would have been disappointed with the defeat against Glenfin but it’s worth remembering that Peadar Mogan didn’t play after the first game, and given his displays with the county team in the months that followed, that was a huge loss. Former Kilcar manager Barry Doherty has stepped aside after only one year in charge, and Naul’s have appointed Andrew Gallagher and Brendan McCready as joint-managers. The Mountcharles men won the Under 21 ‘B’ title in 2019 so there is plenty to work with.
12. Aodh Ruadh (16)
After so many near misses, 2020 was the year in which Aodh Ruadh finally got over the line in the Intermediate Championship. They didn’t have it all their own way but came through tough games with Naomh Columba and Cloughaneely to win the Cathal McLaughlin Cup. They will now push onto the Senior Championship in 2021, and it would be a considerable shock if they don’t retain their top flight status. The Ballyshannon men have a good balanced side and won the final without young Shane Gillespie or Senan Rooney featuring, and they could be key players next season, while Kyle Murray could also step up.
13. Ardara (10)
It should have been a big year for Ardara as they were supposed to play in Division 1 of the All-County League once again. However, that didn’t materialise due to Covid and their championship campaign was underwhelming. There were narrow defeats against MacCumhaill’s and St Michael’s and yet they were well off the pace against Naomh Conaill and Bundoran, and that saw them in the relegation play-offs for the third time in four seasons. Adrian Brennan has stepped down, and it will be up to new manager Damien Devenney to try and re-energise the team, with Daryl Maguire, Paul Walsh, and Charlie Kennedy perhaps ready to step up. A favourable championship draw wouldn’t go amiss.
14. Termon (11)
There is no doubt that Termon have a lot of talent coming through after reaching the Ulster Minor Club Football final last season, and Francie Friel was keen to blood youngsters in 2020. There were tough days in the championship against Kilcar and Naomh Conaill but they then produced an excellent performance against Milford to retain their senior championship status and will look to build on that in 2021. Staying at senior level is of paramount importance for the development of their young players. Kevin McGettigan and Mark Toye are two youngsters who can add strength to their panel
15. Four Masters (19)
It was another curious season for Four Masters. They looked to be in disarray when they lost to Naomh Brid and Naomh Ultan in the Regional Leagues. There were fears that they would struggle for the remainder of the campaign but lifted it for the championship. They battled well against Gaoth Dobhair and then defeated Dungloe in a crucial game. The Donegal Town men showed a lot of spirit to strike late to get a draw against Milford and avoid the relegation play-offs. There is a conveyor belt of good young players on the way and while it might be a few years before it comes through, Senan Quinn is a man to look out for next year. Richard O’Rourke and Shay Travers didn’t play senior football in 2020 but will have something to offer next year.
It wasn’t an ideal year for Milford, and they had to wait a long time for their first victory before it arrived when they needed it most in the SFC Relegation play-off. That was the second time in three years that they found themselves at the last chance saloon. However, in between they reached the quarter-finals so there is scope for significant improvement if they can find the right consistency. There were some mitigating factors in 2020 as SP Barrett was appointed late in the season, and there was a change in personnel with older players moving on. The age profile of the team is now considerably younger, and Donegal minors Eoin O’Donnell and Shane Black will bolster the side going forward.
17. Cloughaneely (15)
It was another season that ended in heartbreak for Cloughaneely as they were beaten in the Intermediate Final for the second year in-a-row. The Falcarragh men aren’t far away and they’ll be glad to see the back of Aodh Ruadh, who have been their big foes in recent years. Cloughaneely did blood good youngsters this year with Conor Coyle, Shaun Curran and Cian Doogan all doing well. Blake McGarvey is a lively forward and he will add some extra firepower. If they can get Jason McGee fully fit for the Intermediate Championship, they will be right in the mix for the Cathal McLaughlin Cup.
18. Naomh Columba (18)
There was quite a lot of hype about Naomh Columba in 2020 by virtue of the fact that they had five players in the Donegal Under 20 panel. It appeared that they were ready to take the next step in the Intermediate Championship and reach the final, but they were pulled back by Aodh Ruadh at the death. Pauric O’Donnell has stepped down as manager, and whoever inherits the team will be tasked with bringing the Glen men back up to senior football. Joseph Lyons and Pauric Hegarty are now eligible and could see game time in 2021.
19. Buncrana (21)
Buncrana had a good year under Gary Duffy and played some great football as they won all their group games in the Intermediate. They followed that up with a big win over Fanad, before losing to Cloughaneely in the semi-finals. While that was disappointing, it was still a good return in their first year back up at Intermediate level. Caolan McGonagle has brought his game to a new level, and while a fit and sharp Darach O’Connor made a huge difference. Oisin Crawford, Sean Doherty and Kevin Jordan were part of the Donegal minors this year and will be pushing for the Buncrana senior team next season. They’ll be keen to get out of Division 3 again in 2021, and could be dark horses to win the Intermediate.
20. Dungloe (17)
After 33 years in the Senior Championship, Dungloe were relegated to the Intermediate ranks in 2020. They were hugely disappointed with that and weren’t disgraced in any of their matches. However, they didn’t take on any of the big-hitters and ultimately could have no great complaints about dropping down. The loss of key players like Ryan and Conor Greene, Adam Neely and Cory Gallagher in recent years has really taken its toll. Daniel Ward was hugely impressive this year but unless Dungloe can find him more support in attack, they will struggle to come straight back up.
21. Red Hugh’s (22)
Finding the right consistency was an issue for Red Hugh’s in 2020. Defeats to Naomh Muire and Buncrana left them under pressure. However, they came good to see off Malin and Naomh Ultan and that brought them through to the last eight of the IFC. They lost out to Cloughaneely at PCC Falcarragh but the absence of Stephen McMenamin that day was a huge factor. In saying that, they were too reliant on Calvin Bradley in attack and he needs more support. Youngster Caolan McClintock has done well previously for Donegal at Under 16 level, and he could be a good foil for Bradley. Former Tattyreagh coach Stephen Ferguson has taken over as manager and it will be interesting to see what stamp he puts on the team.
22. St Mary’s Convoy’s (25)
The year 2020 was a big one for St Mary’s, Convoy as they finally got over the line in the Junior ‘A’ Championship. They played some terrific football during the campaign and should be able to make the step up to intermediate comfortably. Unfortunately they didn’t get the opportunity to play in Division 2 of the All-County League this year but that should be waiting for them in 2021, and they have really made huge strides over the last few years. Convoy have been boosted by Liam Mailey and Anthony Browne transferring back into the club, while Oran Patterson and Mark Gordon were both part of the Donegal minor panel this year and will be eligible for the Convoy seniors next term.
23. Malin (23)
It is very much a rebuilding process for Malin, who are certainly not the force they once were. A lot of their talented dual players are no longer featuring, while 2012 All-Ireland winner Declan Walsh has transferred to a club down the country. They did make the Intermediate Championship quarter-finals and lost out to Naomh Columba down in Glencolmcille which was always going to be a hard result. Malin will be heartened by winning the Inishowen minor title this year. Ben Miller, Connor O’Neill, and Keelan Hegarty were all players that caught the eye for that team.
24. Naomh Muire (30)
When Naomh Muire were well beaten by Letterkenny Gaels in their first Regional League game, it might have been expected that the men from the Lower Rosses would struggle during the 2020 campaign. However, it didn’t play out like that and wins over Red Hugh’s, Naomh Ultan, and Naomh Colmcille saw them through to the quarter-finals. They went up against Aodh Ruadh who beat them easily at the same juncture in 2019, and while Gavin Ward’s side were beaten, they were much more competitive. Naomh Muire will be determined to get out of Division 4 in 2021 and have another good run in the championship. Ferdia Doherty will be an option in the coming season.
25. Gaeil Fhánada (28)
It was a year of good progress for Gaeil Fhánada. They found themselves in a very difficult group in the Intermediate Championship with Cloughaneely and Aodh Ruadh but still managed to make it through to the quarter-finals where they were beaten by Buncrana. Their young players need to get stronger but there definitely is talent at Aidan McAteer’s disposal and he has also persuaded former Intermediate-winning manager Barry Meehan to join his management team. Liam McGrenaghan was part of the Donegal minors in 2020 and he should add some firepower next year.
26. Naomh Brid (20)
The Regional Leagues started off very well for Naomh Brid as they recorded a big win over their neighbours Four Masters. However, the championship didn’t go to plan and they weren’t helped by Dougie Corbett stepping down as bainisteoir. The draw was tough and they had to play Naomh Columba, Aodh Ruadh, and Cloughaneely and while they put up decent showings in each game, they weren’t really close to beating any of those sides. They did get the better of Burt and Naomh Ultan to avoid the drop, and may feel that with the right draw, they still can be a dangerous side in the Intermediate. Shane Walsh returned after a couple of tough years with injury and if the former county minor could stay fit, it would make a telling difference.
27. Downings (24)
Everything looked to be going to plan for Downings as they powered through the Junior Championship in impressive form. However, they failed to show up in the final against Convoy, and a scoring return of 1-3 will leave them very frustrated over the winter. By and large, they have a young squad and should come back again next season. Tiernan McBride will be eligible to play and should add extra strength to their defence, while Ethan Cullen should also be available after a long-term injury. The Rosguill men will be the team to beat in the Junior competition in 2021.
28. Moville (32)
Anthony Doogan had a decent first season in charge of Moville. They were strong through the group stages of the Junior Championship, but then failed to perform in the semi-final against Downings. That will be a source of disappointment because on paper at least, they looked to have a team that could have run the Rosguill men close. Eoin Ó Dochertaigh is an exciting talent, while in Michael Barr, Ciaran Diver and Tony McClenaghan, they do have strong young players who can drive the team on. Eoghan McLaughlin is a player worth keeping an eye on next year, but it will be interesting to see how much Dylan Doherty plays after signing for Institute in the Irish League.
29. Letterkenny Gaels (26)
It proved to be a frustrating year for Letterkenny Gaels. After reaching the 2019 Junior Final, they were just off the pace in the year just gone, and were well beaten by both Moville and Convoy. Given the talent that they have, they really should have done better and there is scope for improvement. Liam McAlary and Ben Gallagher are two young players that could provide extra depth going forward, and that is something that is needed. Sean McBrearty is staying on for another year as manager and he will be hoping his team can find an extra gear in 2021.
30. Burt (29).
Burt have been on a downward trajectory in recent years, and there doesn’t appear to be any quick fixes. In each of the last two seasons, they have found themselves in the relegation play-off, and despite showing little form in their other games, were able to pull off a big result and stay up. In September they came good against their neighbours Naomh Colmcille, but they will be wary of flirting regularly with relegation. Sean McHugh and Calvin Gallagher know where the posts are but the Hibernian Park outfit are not scoring enough, and that’s something they need to address.
31. Naomh Colmcille (27)
2020 was definitely a year that Naomh Colmcille will file under the ‘don’t revisit’ category. The Michael Lynch transfer saga dominated the season. The county senior panellist tried to move to Gaoth Dobhair but that transfer has still not been sanctioned. However, it doesn’t appear that Lynch will be playing for Naomh Colmcille any time soon. He certainly is a huge loss, and Newtown’s intermediate status is still on the line as they have to play Naomh Ultan in a relegation play-off. Matthew Whoriskey and James Kernan are both involved with the St Eunan’s College MacRory Cup panel and are highly-rated, and Newtown will be hoping to make good progress next year.
32. Naomh Ultan (31)
The season started well for Naomh Ultan as they beat Na Rossa and then backed that up with a super win over Four Masters. However, the Championship proved to be a disaster as they lost all their games including a relegation semi-final play-off with Naomh Brid. That means they still have to play Naomh Colmcille, who beat them in the group stages this year. The Dunkineely men suffered injuries to key players such as Alan Lyons and Aaron Kyles during the championship and that severely hindered their chances. If those players are back in form, and young county minor Jack Boyle makes an impact, they should have a better season in 2021.
33. Carndonagh (36)
After underperforming badly in recent years, Carndonagh had a much improved season in 2020. There’s no denying that having Conor O’Donnell back fit made a huge difference, while former county minors Anthony Doherty and Conor McCormick were also available. They were beaten by Letterkenny Gaels by 18 points in the quarter-final in 2019, but there were only two points between the sides when they met at the same juncture this season. If Carn can keep the team together and build up consistency, they could be a genuine force in the Junior Championship next season.
34. Urris (33)
Urris were highly competitive in the Junior ‘A’ Championship in 2020 but for the second year running suffered a narrow defeat at the quarter-final stage. They pushed Convoy hard in the group stages before losing out, but a defeat to Carn would have disappointed them. However, Urris still qualified for the quarter-finals and they could have made it through to the last four, but lost out to Moville by the minimum in a game they could have won. Luke Doherty and Tiernan McDonald made a really good impression and they will be two important players next year. As always no team will want to run into Urris in the 2021 championship.
35. Naomh Padraig, Muff (34)
Muff would have had high hopes for 2020 under the guidance of new joint-managers, Daniel McCauley and Kevin Lynch but things didn’t go to plan. They have a reasonably young side and were one team that really suffered by not having a proper All-County League campaign. However, Naomh Padraig would still have expected to do better in the championship, and while they were very competitive with Convoy, they still lost and were also beaten by Urris and Carndonagh which saw them miss out on a place in the last six of the Junior Championship. Former Donegal underage star Aidan McLaughlin only featured sparingly last season and if they could get him back to his best, they would be significantly stronger. Drew McKinney was the Donegal minor captain in 2020 and will be a good addition going forward.
36. Na Rossa (35)
While results on the pitch might not have been brilliant for Na Rossa, there was good work done off it. They were able to get playing on their excellent new pitch at Madavagh and Covid helped their numbers with players back at home. However, injuries to key players like Odhran Molloy and John McDyre took their toll on the team, and their only win was against Robert Emmets in the Championship. Na Rossa did have a couple of representatives in the Buncrana Cup squad this year which will help their cause going forward, and it may just be a case of keeping the show on the road until the reinforcements arrive.
37. Robert Emmets (37)
It was a season that started very well for Robert Emmets but then went downhill quickly. They made a super start to the campaign with Regional League wins over Pettigo and Na Rossa. However, the championship brought some brutally harsh lessons, as they shipped hammerings at the hands of Downings and Letterkenny Gaels before losing out to Na Rossa in their final game. Robert Emmets don’t have a huge pick but there are some game young lads on the way in the coming years, and will be aiming for a steady 2021.
38. Pettigo (39)
Pettigo didn’t win a game in 2020 but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t significant progress made. Over the last ten years they have been on the receiving end of some big defeats, but they were much more competitive this year. Naomh Brid (Regional Leagues) and Urris (Championship) both beat them by five points but they were in the games right up until the closing exchanges, and they also had a respectable defeat at the hands of Convoy who would go on to win the Junior title. That bodes well and they will be hoping to take another step in the right direction next year.
39. Naomh Padraig, Lifford (38)
It was a tough and frustrating year for Naomh Padraig, Lifford as they only had three competitive games. They were due to take part in the Junior ‘B’ Championship, but that competition didn’t take place. Naomh Padraig did have three Regional League games but because of the structure of that competition had to play three Intermediate sides. They were unlucky not to beat Naomh Colmcille, but were well beaten by Gaeil Fhánada and Red Hugh’s. Lifford will be hoping to get a better run at things next year.