Ryan Ferry breaks down all 39 teams in Donegal club football, and sees where they rank ahead of the 2022 season. Last year’s rankings in brackets.
1. St Eunan’s (3)
It certainly was a year to remember for the St Eunan’s senior football team. The league didn’t herald any silverware but Rory Kavanagh was able to give his young players ample time on the field. They failed their first test against Kilcar in the championship opener but crucially learned from it. They progressed through to the county final and produced a fabulous display to dethrone Naomh Conaill and land the Dr Maguire Cup. Unfortunately they lost to Watty Graham’s by a point in the Ulster Preliminary Round but given the other results in that competition, it’s safe to say they were in the mix with the best in the province. The Letterkenny club have a young team and they will be eyeing up back-to-back next year.
2. Naomh Conaill (1)
Naomh Conaill started the year superbly by winning the Division 1 League title and then the 2020 county final in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Perhaps the fall-out from that controversial game did take its toll as they weren’t at their best up until the knock-out stages of the championship, and then they produced big wins over Gaoth Dobhair and Kilcar but couldn’t back it up in the final when they were well below par. There will be a new direction for the Davy Brennan Memorial Park men next season with Martin Regan no longer at the helm, and youngsters like Daniel Gildea and Keelan McGill could have bigger roles to play.
3. Kilcar (2)
There’s no doubt that Kilcar fell short of their objectives this season. The 2020 County Final saga might not be over yet, but this isn’t how they would have wanted it to play out. They recorded a big win over St Eunan’s in the 2021 championship and progressed with style through to the semi-final. However, they lost to Naomh Conaill on a day when they ran into their spider’s web too much. That will lead to frustration over the winter months. John McNulty has stepped down as manager and the Towney club have to find the right replacement. Their golden generation are pushing on towards the latter end of their twenties now, and they know that the window for winning championships isn’t getting bigger.
4. Gaoth Dobhair (4)
Gaoth Dobhair were well off the pace in 2020 but they did improve this year and brought more focus and intensity to their games. The league didn’t excite too much but come the championship, they appeared sharp and won their opening three matches to cruise through to the quarter-finals. They were tipped in many quarters to bring down Naomh Conaill but that never happened on a day when they misfired. Gaoth Dobhair did blood a few youngsters this year like Fionnan and Fiachra Coyle but there are more up-and-coming players available, and an infusion of youth might do no harm. The Magheragallon men are still in the top four, but you sense that the other three big-hitters wouldn’t mind playing them.
5. St Michael’s (5)
There was a debate at times this year about who the fifth best team in Donegal club football is but it is still hard to look past St Michael’s for that accolade. Their season started slowly and Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher was a late appointment but didn’t stay long. They shipped a few big beatings in the league but still were able to pick up plenty of points. There was somewhat of a stuttering start to the championship but when Michael Langan regained full fitness, they picked up super wins over Killybegs and Aodh Ruadh, and put in a good showing against St Eunan’s despite being down to 14. St Michael’s don’t have a huge amount coming through, and some of their stalwarts are getting no younger but they are still a dangerous side come the business end of the year.
6. Aodh Ruadh (12)
Aodh Ruadh will identify the 2021 season as one where their senior team really stepped up. They secured promotion out of Division 2 and only lost one game in the process. The Ballyshannon club then went on to enjoy a splendid club championship. They defeated Four Masters and Aodh Ruadh, and drew with a big-four side in Naomh Conaill. Covid interrupted their plans in the senior championship quarter-final against St Michael’s, although they were still well off the pace. Aaron Cullen was the Donegal minor captain this season and will bolster their goalkeeping options. However, Barry Ward has stepped down as manager, and they will miss his influence.
7. St Naul’s (11)
It was an excellent season for St Naul’s. They won three of their group games, and only lost the other by a point. That saw the Mountcharles men progress to the senior quarter-finals for the very first time. They would eventually lose to St Eunan’s by seven points but considering that Stephen Griffin was sent off in the first minute, it was a decent effort. Life in Division 2 wasn’t easy without Peadar Mogan and Brendan McCole, and with the split season in play now that’s something they will have to get used to. Naul’s won the Division 2 Minor title this year, and will be hoping to get a few players from that side. Conor Campbell was the star man in that team but he is on Sligo Rovers’ books and it will be interesting to see if he features in 2022.
8. Glenswilly (10)
There’s no doubt that Glenswilly found the going tough in the league this year, and they didn’t have huge depth to their panel. However, when they had everyone out in the championship they were a decent outfit. They beat Killybegs and MacCumhaill’s and really should have got the better of St Naul’s. They were unlucky to find themselves in a relegation play-off and the defeat to Ardara was definitely a low moment. However, they beat Termon well, and all in all, it wasn’t a bad championship considering their talisman Michael Murphy wasn’t at full tilt. They had a good minor team this year, and the likes of Gary Kelly could feature next year.
9. Sean MacCumhaill’s (6)
It wasn’t quite the year MacCumhaill’s envisaged and without Oisin Gallen, they were quite poor in the league. They also lost their first two championship matches but finished strongly to make the last eight. However, the quarter-final with Kilcar was a disaster as they only scored two points. That wasn’t a good way to end the season but their Under 21s reached the ‘A’ Final in December and the outlook is brighter after that. Their minors also landed a county title this season although it might be a year or two before the fruits of that team come through. Paul Rouse is no longer manager, but with the brilliant Gallen in the team, the new boss will have a good outfit to work with.
10. Glenfin (8)
It was a season in which Glenfin caught the eye and yet were left with the little to show for it. They were one of the more consistent sides in Division 2 but a late collapse against Termon saw them miss out on promotion. They beat St Naul’s and Four Masters in the championship, and were unlucky not to make the last eight after performing well against Naomh Conaill and Gaoth Dobhair. However, the An Gaeltacht Lár men then lost out to Killybegs when they were favourites in the play-off before defeating Bundoran. A new management will be in place next year with David Carroll and Gareth Martin, and they will have eyes on getting to Division 1. Glenfin had three county minors this year in Luke McGlynn, Sean Ward, and Daniel Marley, and they will all be expected to see game time in 2022.
11. Cloughaneely (17)
There will be huge relief around Cloughaneely this winter as the Cathal McLaughlin Cup proudly resides in the parish. There’s no doubt that it was a difficult championship for the Falcarragh side to win but the pressure is off now and they’ll be looking to kick on in the senior championship. Once again, they held their own in Division 1 this year, winning three of their eight matches. Cathal McGeever and Ethan Friel are two big strong lads who lined out for the county minors this year, and they should come straight into the senior set-up.
12. Killybegs (9)
It was a season that never really got going for Killybegs. They were back in Division 1 and beat Glenswilly on the first day out but struggled after that and had Covid issues late in the campaign. They were hoping to put that behind them for the championship but then lost Hugh McFadden and Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher to injury in their first outing. The Fishermen were beaten in their opening two games, but did come back to get good wins over Milford and Glenfin, and considering they didn’t have McFadden for those matches, survival in the Donegal SFC will appease them. They’ll be hoping for a better year in 2022 when the big county midfielder is able to tog out again.
13. Milford (16)
Milford started the year reasonably well and were in the mix for promotion in Division 2. They won a few tight games but also lost a couple of close encounters and they could have no great complaints about missing out on promotion. They didn’t give a great account of themselves in the senior championship, but did have fine wins over Ardara and Bundoran and that sees them back in the top tier again next year. A number of players were not involved at different stages of 2021 and getting them back on board will be important. Milford also won the Under 21 ‘B’ title and they had a number of 17-year-olds in that team who could push on and make an impression for new manager Pauric Curley.
14. Ardara (13)
Ardara were back in Division 1 this year and acquitted themselves quite well, although they only had two wins against Glenswilly and Gaoth Dobhair. The championship started with a narrow win over Bundoran but tailed off in a disappointing fashion then, although a dramatic win over Glenswilly again saw them retain their senior status. Paddy McGrath has retired from intercounty football and will be hoping his body will allow him to have a good club season next term. Ardara do have good young players, but they shipped heavy beatings in big games at senior, Under 21 and reserve level this year, and the club will be hoping that doesn’t leave any lasting scars.
15. Bundoran (7)
It was a very disappointing season for Bundoran this year. They only won one game in Division 1 and that was against a severely weakened Kilcar side while they also drew with Glenswilly and Ardara. The Star of the Sea men did beat Killybegs in the Championship but they were at a low ebb for much of the year and it did come as a surprise that they beat Termon in the last chance saloon. There were injuries throughout the year, most notably to Jamie Brennan but they haven’t huge depth and Alan Russell has now emigrated to Canada. Ryan Barrett and Kyle McNulty were on the county minor panel this year, and could see game time going forward.
16. Four Masters (15)
It was another strange season for Four Masters. They struggled in Division 3 and relegation was in the equation at one point before the Sinclair brothers (Kevin and John) came in and their fortunes improved. They found the championship tough going, but should have beaten St Michael’s and then did see off Termon in a play-off. However, they really need to get their act together in the league because playing Division 3 football is not conducive to preparing for the senior championship. Conor Reid will be available to them next year, although Four Masters have operated with a policy of not playing men in their first year of adult football, and that is something they should look at.
17. Termon (14)
Termon started the season in superb form and that saw them ride high in Division 2. However, they couldn’t maintain their form through the whole season, and the senior championship campaign did not go to plan. They lost all their seven matches and were relegated. The Burn Road men should have beaten Four Masters and Bundoran but fell short when it really mattered. They did finish the year on a high by winning promotion to Division 1, and that coupled with Intermediate football next year might help their development. Oisin Harkin, Cormac Gallagher, and Patrick McDaid were all county minors this year, and will likely be brought into the set-up going forward.
18. Dungloe (20)
After suffering relegation last season, Dungloe bounced back strongly this year. They had a good league campaign in Division 2, and went into the Intermediate Championship with confidence. It was said that they were on the weaker side of the draw but they beat everyone in front of them and went on to reach the final. They should have won the decider the first day out and may feel that they would have if it wasn’t for some refereeing calls. However, they were well off the pace in the replay. Dessie Gallagher’s young team did have a steady season in general, and Karl McGee, who was one of the best Donegal minors in 2021, will bolster their backline going forward.
19. Naomh Columba (18)
It was another year of frustration for Naomh Columba. They struggled for wins in Division 2 and had some narrow defeats despite brilliant displays from Aaron Doherty. However, they started the championship in brilliant form and won all their group games, defeating Cloughaneely and Buncrana in the process. It looked like this was the year that they were finally going to land the Intermediate crown, but once again failed to make the final, after losing out to Dungloe in the semis. Pauric O’Donnell has moved aside as manager now, and the next bainisteoir will be hoping to get them over the line. Michael Callaghan should be a useful addition going forward.
20. Buncrana (19)
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Buncrana this season. They were without question the best team in Division 3 and won all their games as they secured automatic promotion. However, there wasn’t any sign of improvement from 2020 when the championship kicked into gear. They were well beaten by Naomh Columba and lost to Cloughaneely in the group, and the Falcarragh men also beat them in the championship semi-finals. Gary Duffy has since stepped down as bainisteoir and the next person in charge will be hoping to take them to another level.
Downings encountered the good and the bad this year. They started off with a super win over Dungloe but from then struggled in the league, although they did get another win over Convoy. However, all was not well in the camp and their management team stepped down before the championship. Things didn’t look good at that stage but they steadied up and went on a great run which took them to the Ulster Junior Final. They lost out to Denn but getting back to Intermediate football was the main objective and they need to kick on now. Downings have plenty of good young players, and Paddy McElwee – who was the full-forward for the county minors this year – should add to their attacking artillery next term.
22. Letterkenny Gaels (29)
It was a big year for Letterkenny Gaels as they celebrated their 25th anniversary and they secured their passage to Division 2 for the very first time. Sean McBrearty’s side did brilliantly through the league and were good value for their promotion. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t keep the momentum going in the Junior Championship. They did reach the Junior final but were well beaten by Downings on a day when they didn’t really show up. They have issues to address in the middle of the field, but a year in the second tier of the All-County League should bring them on, and they will be favourites for the Junior next season.
23. Gaeil Fhánada (25)
Gaeil Fhánada will be kicking themselves that they didn’t secure promotion from Division 3. They did have a better season in 2021 than in the previous year, and the introduction of Barry Meehan to their management team certainly seemed to have a positive impact. However, they lost out to Letterkenny Gaels in a play-off after extra-time. You could make a strong argument that they were the fifth best team in the Intermediate Championship and posed questions of Buncrana before losing out in the quarter-finals. Injuries to important players at the business end of the season didn’t help matters.
24. Malin (23)
Malin had a decent campaign in Division 3, finishing in fourth place and they will feel that they maybe should have made the play-off. They changed manager early in the season but that didn’t deter them hugely and they made it through to the quarter-finals of the Intermediate Championship after beating Naomh Ultan, Naomh Muire, and Red Hugh’s. However, the Connolly Park side were poor in the last eight against Cloughaneely. Their Under 21 team had a good run in the ‘B’ Championship late in the year, and in the O’Neill brothers, Sean and Conor, and Josh Conlon, they have forwards of real substance. Michael Byrne has taken over the reins of the senior team and will be hoping for a good first season.
25. St Mary’s, Convoy (22)
After a great 2020, Convoy were brought down to earth somewhat this season. They struggled for results in Division 2, and while they picked up a couple of draws, they didn’t get any wins. They defeated Burt in the championship but were beaten in their other matches, and then ended up losing to Burt in the relegation play-off semi-final. They saved themselves from dropping back to junior football, and their Under 21 side then finished the season well. Injuries did play a big part this year, and another season in Division 2 will stand on them. Keeping important players like Joe McGill at home will be key to their chances.
26. Carndonagh (33)
It was an excellent year for the Carndonagh senior footballers. They were worthy winners of Division 4 and then put down a statement in the championship by easily beating Letterkenny Gaels. Their JFC campaign came to an end against Downings on a day when they were lacking the craft and experience of their opponents. However, their Under 21 side were really impressive in winning the ‘C’ Championship in December. They have plenty of good players and will be Junior contenders if Conor O’Donnell is firing, although the league might be tough when the county man isn’t available.
27. Naomh Brid (26)
After a couple of seasons of competing near the top of Division 3, Naomh Brid struggled in the league in 2021 and were fortunate that there was no relegation. They struggled throughout the early part of the season and yet a win over Four Masters showed what they were capable of. They improved in the championship and after losing heavily to Dungloe, they fought back with wins over Naomh Muire, Naomh Ultan and Red Hugh’s. The Trummon men were then well beaten by Naomh Columba in the quarter-finals. They have the players to avoid a relegation scrap in Division 3 next term, although Ross Gallagher has transferred to a club in Dublin.
28. Red Hugh’s (21)
2021 is a year that Red Hugh’s will want to forget fairly quickly. They finished mid-table in Division 3. The men from the Cross only lost three games and yet in truth were still a distance off challenging for promotion. The Intermediate Championship then proved to be a disaster. They lost all four of their group games, and team manager Stephen Ferguson stepped down before a play-off against Naomh Ultan. They did get a win in that match but with good footballers at their disposal, Red Hugh’s really should be doing a bit better. County minor James Doherty will add to their backline next year.
29. Naomh Muire (24)
Naomh Muire are a peculiar side, as they have struggled in the league in recent times, and yet have been quite competitive in the Intermediate Championship when it really matters. They were tipped to push for promotion this year in Division 4 but ended up in fifth which was a poor return. However, big home wins against Red Hugh’s and Naomh Ultan saw them through to the last eight in the championship where they were well beaten by Dungloe. Danny O’Donnell has returned to the managerial hotseat, and if he can get some talented players back into the fold, there is scope for good improvement.
30. Moville (28)
It was a bit of a mixed bag for Moville this year. They picked up three good wins in Division 3 and fought back for a draw with Letterkenny Gaels but they weren’t at the races on their travels. The Carrick Field men were then hammered by Na Rossa in their first championship match. They bounced back to make it through to the quarter-finals, and probably should have taken Letterkenny Gaels to extra-time at least. With the quality of players they have, they really should be making a better push at winning the Junior crown.
31. Burt (30)
It was another year of struggle for Burt. The Hibernian Park club encountered a battle in Division 3 and found themselves near the bottom of the table. They also failed to win any of their group matches in the Intermediate Championship. To be fair, they were on the harder side of the draw but didn’t really go close to winning a match. However, just like in recent years, they came good in the play-offs to save their senior status. Burt’s Under 21 team were well beaten in the ‘C’ Championship by Naomh Colmcille, so it looks like it might be another challenging year in 2022.
32. Na Rossa (36)
There have been some tough seasons for Na Rossa in recent times so they will have taken great pleasure in how the league played out in 2021. They had a good steady campaign in Division 4 and recorded a dramatic play-off win over Muff. The Madavagh men could count themselves a tad unlucky not to reach the Junior Final as well as they pushed Letterkenny Gaels hard in the semi-final. Cormac McHugh has since stepped down as manager and that is a blow as they gear up for Division 3. However, Oisin Caulfield and Cillian Bonner will come into the team and they will be two useful additions.
33. Naomh Padraig, Muff (34)
Naomh Padraig didn’t get the success they craved in 2021, but the signs are there that things are moving in the right direction. They got into the play-off in Division 4, and managed to win away at the Banks. However, promotion was taken out of their grasp at the last moment when they somehow threw away a three-point lead against Na Rossa. Their championship campaign wasn’t bad as they drew with Carndonagh and there was no shame in losing an away quarter-final against eventual Ulster champions, Downings by five points. Muff do have a young team but they have plenty of talent but taking the next step won’t be easy. County minor Cormac McColgan will be eligible to play next year.
34. Naomh Ultan (32).
It will have been a frustrating season for Naomh Ultan. After winning the 2020 Intermediate relegation play-off with Naomh Colmcille, there would have been hope that they could kick on in the 2021 campaign. However, it didn’t go to plan as they failed to win any matches and dropped back down to junior football. They also missed out on a spot in the Division 4 promotion play-off on score difference. With young players like Luke Gallagher and Jack Boyle coming to the fore, the Dunkineely men will think they can go close in both the league and championship in 2022.
35. Naomh Colmcille (31)
It has not been a good past few years for the Naomh Colmcille. Their stock has fallen considerably and they were relegated to the Junior Championship in the summer. They then struggled badly in Division 3 only picking up one win. There was no relegation but that might not necessarily be a good thing for Newtown as they were so far off the pace this year that they will struggle to bridge the gap. Their Under 21s had issues getting a full team out against Convoy in the ‘C’ semi-final a couple of weeks ago, so there is work to do to get young people involved. Stephen Davenport and Ciaran Callaghan have taken over as joint-managers and they will be aiming to get them playing as a collective unit once again.
36. Urris (33)
It proved to be quite an underwhelming season for Urris. In previous years, the Sraid men had been pushing hard in the upper echelons of Division 4 and regularly put it up to most teams in the Junior Championship. However, they weren’t anywhere near the reckoning in the league this year and only won three of their nine matches. Their only victory in the Championship came against St Eunan’s development squad and while they did hold Na Rossa to three points, they didn’t really push the other teams in their group close. Urris still have enough good players to come back strongly next year.
37. Robert Emmets (37)
It was another season that started quite well for Robert Emmets but turned flat by the end of the year. Things got off on the right footing with a handsome win over Pettigo. They put in decent showings against Naomh Muire and Carndonagh before losing out. However, apart from a win over Lifford, they failed to pick up any more points in the league. The championship didn’t bring any positive results and they conceded their match against Na Rossa. The Castlefin club are working hard at bringing through young players but it may be a few years before they can compete with the big-hitters in the fourth tier.
38. Naomh Padraig, Lifford (39)
After a couple of underwhelming seasons, there was a sense of real progress with Naomh Padraig, Lifford in 2021. They have a fantastic new pitch in operation now and that is a huge shot in the arm. They battled relatively well in Division 4 this year against the top teams, while they also picked up two wins. Sean McConnell’s men defeated St Eunan’s Development team and also got the better of Urris, while Muff only defeated them by three points. Losing the Junior ‘B’ Final to Letterkenny Gaels was a setback but they do have some youth coming through now and that augers well for 2022.
39. Pettigo (38)
Pettigo had a better year than in 2020 as they picked up three points in Division 4, and were generally quite competitive. They weren’t disgraced in the Junior ‘A’ Championship and yet were still a good bit off securing a win. It isn’t easy for the border club to keep the show on the road, but they are in a much better position than a few years ago and can strive for improvement again next year.