GAA Club rankings ahead of 2023 season

Ryan Ferry breaks down all 39 clubs in Donegal football and sees where they rank ahead of the 2023 season. Last year’s rankings in brackets.

1. Naomh Conaill (2)

Naomh Conaill are once again at the top of the tree. They were written off in certain quarters as an ageing team, and while they didn’t hit top form in the group phase of the championship, they couldn’t be beaten in the knock-out stages, and pulled off a massive shock in defeating St Eunan’s in the final. They will be back to defend their crown again next year, and while that won’t be easy, they are in a very strong place with formidable reserve and third teams as well, while Mark McDevitt was a county minor this year who could potentially step up to make an impression. That said, it’s not easy for youngsters to break into such a seasoned team.


Eoin Waide of Naomh Conaill.

2. St Eunan’s (1)

There’s no doubt that it will be a long winter around O’Donnell Park. They appeared on course to retain the Dr Maguire Cup and were the form team right up until the final. It was of course fine margins in the decider, but ‘Eunan’s came out on the wrong side of it, and they will be sore about how things played out, particularly with Shane O’Donnell’s red card. Rory Kavanagh’s decision to stay on as manager is a shot in the arm for the Letterkenny men, and you sense there will be no stone left unturned in 2023 as they look to reclaim the senior championship crown.

3. Kilcar (3)

2022 was another year of frustration for the Kilcar senior team. They did win the Division 1 league which was a good achievement, but in truth, they are measured by the senior championship, and they came unstuck in the semi-final against St Eunan’s. They just can’t seem to get the balance right come the business end of the season, and their golden generation are now moving towards their late twenties and thirties. There isn’t a huge amount coming through either, although Ben Rafferty was part of the county minor set-up this year. Conor Cunningham and his coach, former Armagh star Barry O’Hagan, are expected to stay on for another year, and they will hope their team can take it up a notch or two next season.


Ciaran McGinley of Kilcar.


4. Gaoth Dobhair (4)

Gaoth Dobhair remain in the top four, but probably end the year a good bit adrift of the other three sides. They had a decent championship, reaching the semi-finals, and while they never looked like beating Naomh Conaill, it is true that they had rotten luck with injuries throughout the year. Trevor Alcorn blooded a lot of young players, and the likes of Aidan Breatnach and Daire Ferry have been very impressive for their Under 21 side in recent months. They were late getting mobilised in 2022 so need to ensure the house is in order earlier next year and get the hard training in the legs, while they will be hoping Odhran Mac Niallais and Neil McGee can get back to full fitness.


5. Glenswilly (8)

It was a season of ups and downs for Glenswilly but they finished 2022 in a strong position. They were relegated in the league which was hugely disappointing. However, that didn’t deter them in the Championship, and they are one of the very few teams in the last couple of years to get a result against a top four side when they drew with Naomh Conaill. They followed up with wins over St Naul’s, Glenfin and Ardara, and then rattled Glenties again in the quarter-final before losing out. Glenswilly’s Under 21 team won the ‘B’ Championship in style and the likes of Daithi Gildea and Donal Gallagher will add hugely to their team, while the fact that Michael Murphy will be available for the full season in 2023 will surely raise standards throughout their camp.

Gerard Shiels (right) is a good young player for Glenswilly.

6. Aodh Ruadh (6)

Aodh Ruadh supporters may feel that they should be one place further up in these rankings this year, and they did have a very solid campaign under John McNulty. With no county players, they were able to thrive in the league and were up in contention near the top of the table. They then won all four of their group games, and could and possibly should have beaten Gaoth Dobhair in Killybegs in the quarter-final. That was a game that was there for the taking, but their old problem remains getting enough scores at the attacking end of the pitch. Damien Weber, Eoghan Kelly and Jack Gallagher impressed for their Under 21 side this winter, while Johnny Gethins should be back from overseas duty and able to play.

7. St Michael’s (5)
It was a season of transition in many ways for St Michael’s as they began life without Christy Toye and Colm McFadden. They adapted well in the most part and stayed up in Division 1 even though they played the bulk of that without Michael Langan. There were some good showings in the Championship and at times looked like they could be dangerous opponents. However, when they met top teams in the form of Naomh Conaill and St Eunan’s, they couldn’t match them. St Michael’s don’t have a huge amount of young talent coming through in the immediate future, but they do have a loyal core group, who should be competitive again next season.


Michael Langan on the ball for St Michael’s.

8. Killybegs (12)

It was a much improved 2022 for Killybegs as they qualified for the quarter-finals of the Donegal SFC. They looked destined to be relegated in the league but clung on in a play-off thanks to a stunning Conor Cunningham free. That really jolted them into action and while they lost to Naomh Conaill in the championship, they did have solid wins over Glenfin and Milford, and Cloughaneely in a game where some pundits doubted their credentials. Kilcar were too strong for them in the last eight, but there is the makings of a solid side at Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park if they can keep everyone at home and fit.

9. Glenfin (10)

Glenfin had a strong league campaign and ended up with seven wins and a draw from 12 games in Division 1 which was a fine return. Things didn’t quite go to plan in the Championship although the absence of chief marksman Gerard Ward had a huge impact on that. They pushed Gaoth Dobhair close but lost to Killybegs and Glenswilly before finishing off with a good win over Four Masters. Their Under 21s enjoyed a good run in the ‘B’ Championship and Odhran O’Connor and Jack Long are two exciting prospects.


Frank McGlynn (right) of Glenfin.

10. Sean MacCumhaill’s (9)
It was a year that promised a lot for MacCumhaill’s but came to a rather tame conclusion. They did secure promotion to Division 2 and that was a key objective met and not one to be sniffed at when you consider that they only had Oisin Gallen for a single game. They made a decent start to the championship, drawing with St Michael’s and beating Four Masters but then had a really poor performance against Gaoth Dobhair when they were expected to perform and also lost out when St Eunan’s came to town. There is scope for improvement and have three county minors in Sean Martin, Conor McGinty, and Shaun McMenamin to add to their depth next term.

11. Four Masters (16)

These are certainly exciting times for the Four Masters club as they won the Under 13, Under 15, and Under 17 county titles. The possibilities for the future seem boundless and their senior team are making good strides in the here and the now as well. Four Masters weren’t in the promotion shake-up in Division 2 but never looked like getting relegated either, and a good draw against Cloughaneely and a win over Bundoran saw them stay up comfortably in the Senior Championship. It still feels like they are a level off the quarter-finals at the moment, and it will be interesting to see if they can bridge that gap. Securing promotion to the top tier of the All-County League would certainly help with that objective.

12. Cloughaneely (11)

It was a solid year for Cloughaneely as they retained their Division 1 status for another season, and also managed to stay up in the Senior Championship, without needing to win a play-off. They did only collect one point from four outings, and will feel that they should have beaten Four Masters the first day out. However, when they were paired with Kilcar and St Eunan’s next up, it was always going to be a case of securing survival. Michael Lynch has stepped down after giving great service to the club, and Denis Doohan will look to bring fresh impetus. Padraig Coyle was a county minor in 2022, and he will add to their firepower next term.

Conor Coyle of Cloughaneely on the ball.

13. Dungloe (18)

Dungloe will look back at the ’22 campaign with great fondness as they won their first men’s championship title in 36 years. Their league got off to a slow start and the focus soon switched onto the quest for Intermediate glory, and Oisin Bonner’s return to fitness was the catalyst for a vastly improved side, who deservedly got their hands on the Cathal McLaughlin Cup. Their team are now battle-hardened and should hold their own in the senior ranks next year, although Danny Rodgers is said to be heading to Australia and that will be a significant blow if it comes to pass. Cian McGee is a player who could add pace and athleticism to the Rosses side next season.

14. Downings (21)

It was a season of substantial improvement for Downings and they were excellent in Division 2. They suffered two early losses and then went on a great run claiming some big scalps and ended up winning the league title thanks to an incredible last-gasp goal from Johnny McGroddy. They suffered an early loss against Buncrana in the Intermediate Championship but bounced back and looked on course for a spot in the last four until they were stunned by Alan McAteer’s late goal. That was a shock to the system, but the Rosguill men look in a good place with improving youngsters. Shaun Paul Barrett is expected to be part of Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher’s backroom in 2023 and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the Downings team.


Keelan McGroddy of Downings against Malin.

15. Ardara (14)

It was a real struggle for Ardara in Division 1 in 2022, and they suffered automatic relegation when they lost their last regulation fixture against Glenswilly. They found results hard to come by in the Championship as well when they lost to Gaoth Dobhair, Aodh Ruadh, Glenswilly but were too strong for St Naul’s in the relegation play-off and that saw their long-standing run in senior football continue for another year. Some of their talented youngsters were out of the country this summer, and it will be interesting to see if they can get any of those players back, while Karl Joseph Molloy was excellent for the Donegal minors this year and will add considerably to their attacking artillery.

16. Malin (24)

It was somewhat of a peculiar season for Malin. Michael Byrne took over as bainisteoir at the start of the year and got some talented players back on board and they were outstanding in Division 2. The only game they lost in the regulation season was away in Glencolmcille after a two-and-a-half hour trek. There was disappointment in the league final when Downings beat them at the death, and that seemed to knock them for six. An injury to Benny McLaughlin didn’t help matters but a failure to win any of their four championship group matches was a shock. They have Division 1 to look forward to next year, and with Zach Conlon, Calvin White and Darragh Douglas coming through, they should give the Intermediate a right good rattle.

17. Milford (13)

The 2022 campaign started off reasonably well for Milford under new manager Pauric Curley and while they had some disappointing results, they still reached the Division 2 play-off. However, with Kane Barrett missing through injury, they were well beaten by MacCumhaill’s and that seemed to set them back. The Moyle View club lost all their senior group games but did stay up by beating Bundoran after extra-time. Curley has now stepped aside, and while Milford do have some talented youngsters in their ranks, they will fall through the trap door to Intermediate sooner rather than later unless they up the ante. They will be hoping that Finn Coll can adapt quickly to adult football next season.


Eoin O’Donnell of Milford

18. Naomh Columba (19)

It could be a long winter about Glencolmcille as Naomh Columba come to terms with another season in Intermediate football. They were rarely at full-strength during the league and their results were disappointing. However, they started to look the part in the Intermediate Championship when everyone was back fit. They got over a big hurdle when they reached the Intermediate final, but a paltry return of four points in the decider is sure to grind at them. The Glen men need to push on next year, and the likes of Michael Callaghan who played reserve football in the championship could provide some extra scores in attack next term.


19. Termon (17)

In many ways 2022 will feel like a wasted year for the Termon club. They were relegated from Division 1 with just one draw to their name. In fairness, they were without some key players through injuries and summer stints in America, and there was a very different look to their team come the Championship. However, their defensive tactics were derided and they just about got the better of Red Hugh’s in the quarter-final, before going down tamely enough in the semi-final. There will be a new management in place next year and possibly a different approach, and it will be interesting to see if that can get the best from a youthful but talented panel. Cian McMenamin is a player to keep on eye on.

20. Gaeil Fhánada (23)

Gaeil Fhánada really upped the ante this year and made good progress. They won the All-Ireland Junior Gaeltacht title on the June Bank Holiday weekend and they were delighted to bring silverware back to the Fanad peninsula. Their league form dipped after that but they still finished midtable in Division 2. They then went on to claim a big win over Downings in the Intermediate Championship, but came unstuck against Naomh Columba in the semi-final. Aidan McAteer has stepped down as manager and trainer Barry Meehan has also moved on, but they still should be in the reckoning for the Cathal McLaughlin Cup next year. Shaun Carr is a young player who could make a mark in 2023.


Shaun Kerr, Gaeil Fhánada.

21. Letterkenny Gaels (22)

It was a long time coming but the Letterkenny Gaels players can enjoy the winter months safe in the knowledge that they have finally claimed the Junior ‘A’ Championship. There were many near-misses in recent years but this time they got the formula just right. The year started slowly in the league but when Conor McBrearty came back from Spain and others returned from injury, they really got their act together. The question now is can they push on and establish themselves as a serious Intermediate team? Joint-manager Dougie Corbett has stepped down but there’s plenty to work with at Pairc na Gael.

22. Buncrana (20)

There is a real sense that Buncrana are underachieving. They had some good wins in Division 2 of the league but couldn’t find the right consistency, although a shoulder injury to John Campbell didn’t help their cause. They looked well positioned for a real jaunt at the Intermediate crown and won their first three matches before going down tamely twice against Naomh Columba. It feels like there is more in the Scarvey men and Gary Duffy will be hoping they can raise their performance levels next term. Sean McLaughlin is a big presence who did well for the county minors this year, but the talented Kevin Jordan has committed to Finn Harps, and that is a loss.

23. St Naul’s (7)

St Naul’s had a great 2021 but they will be filing the ’22 campaign in the ‘don’t revisit’ category. Andrew Gallagher stepped away from the management team early in the year, and they really struggled in the league when Brendan McCole and Peadar Mogan were away with the county, and then Daniel Brennan transferred to Kilmacud Crokes. They were eventually relegated to Division 3 which is a disaster for the Mountcharles club, and not where they want to be going forward. They did manage to stay in the Senior Championship, and Niall Prenderville will bolster their squad, but getting out of the third tier in the league will surely be top of the priority list next year.

Peadar Mogan in possession for St Naul’s against Shane O’Donnell.

24. Bundoran (15)

After a very poor 2021, there were signs of recovery early in the season when Peter McIntyre took over as Bundoran manager. They picked up a couple of good results in the league and stayed in Division 1. However, the Championship proved to be a disaster. A bad injury to county man Paul Brennan didn’t help things, and they did have tough games against St Eunan’s and Kilcar, but one win against Four Masters, Milford, or St Naul’s would have kept them in the senior ranks, and they couldn’t oblige so they can’t have many complaints about their relegation. Their Under 21 team didn’t offer much in the ‘C’ Championship so there might not be a lot coming through, and bouncing straight back to senior looks a tough ask.

25. Burt (31)

A much improved season for Burt, who look to have steadied the ship and are looking upwards again. They had a very strong Division 3 campaign under Ciaran Dowds and deservedly went up as champions. They didn’t have as much joy in the Intermediate Championship but did have tough matches against Dungloe, Malin and Fanad, and they will have been disappointed not to make the last eight. However, they stayed up and then finished the year very impressively by winning the Under 21 ‘C’ title. Only a handful of that team were regulars for their seniors so there is good scope to push on again next term.

26. Naomh Muire (29)

Danny O’Donnell returned to the Naomh Muire hotseat in 2022, and it was no surprise that his side improved significantly. They were disappointed to miss out on automatic promotion in the league but didn’t panic and went up to Division 2 with a play-off win over Na Rossa. The Championship started well with a shock victory over Malin and another draw against Fanad saw them progress through to the quarter-finals, where they had Dungloe rattled for long periods before losing out to two late goals. That will give them plenty of belief over the winter, but they do need to find more attacking threats.

Daniel Devlin (right) of Naomh Muire.

27. Red Hugh’s (28)

It was a low-key season for Red Hugh’s who struggled in Division 2 of the All-County League. They shipped some big beatings without Stephen McMenamin and needed a play-off to save themselves. The Intermediate Championship did go better and they reached the quarter-finals and pushed Termon quite close when very few gave them a chance. Francie Martin has moved on and Eugene Browne has been appointed early so they should get a decent start to 2022 although it won’t be easy to retain their second flight status. Cathair Browne looked likely for their Under 21s and could add some spark to their forward line going forward.

28. Naomh Brid (27)

Naomh Brid enjoyed an excellent league campaign in Division 3 and fought off stiff competition to secure promotion. They lost out in the league final against Burt but at least met their main objective. Unfortunately things didn’t go so well in the Championship, and they lost all their group games against Naomh Columba, Red Hugh’s, Convoy and Downings. It wasn’t looking good for them at that point but they managed to save their Intermediate status when their backs were to the wall against Convoy. Aidan Murray has stepped down as bainisteoir and the Trummon men will been keen to consolidate their place in Division 2 in 2023 and make a better fist of the Intermediate.

Naomh Brid’s Darren Russell bursts past Convoy’s Joseph McGill

29. Carndonagh (26)

After winning the league in 2021, it was a surprise to see Carndonagh finish down the pack in Division 3 last term, and they never mounted a serious challenge for promotion. Of course, Conor O’Donnell was away with the county for the bulk of the campaign and Ryan Kelly’s injuries didn’t help either. When both of those players got back fit, they were able to progress through to the Junior Championship Final. They let a lead slip in the decider and that will annoy them over the winter, but they will be one of the leading contenders to win the junior crown next year.

30. St Mary’s, Convoy (25)

After a couple of seasons of good progress this was not a good campaign for St Mary’s, Convoy. Their team had a very different look to it from the side that won the Junior championship two years for a variety of reasons and they struggled in the league and eventually went down after losing a play-off against Red Hugh’s. They were also relegated in the Intermediate Championship which is a real hammer blow. The one shining light was a fine campaign for their reserve side and there are players in that team who have the potential to push on and help drive the club out of junior once again.

31. Na Rossa (32)

It was a decent season for Na Rossa, who were able to introduce Oisin Caulfield and Cillian Bonner into their team and that definitely helped them. They did well in Division 3 but just missed out on promotion in the play-off. Cormac McHugh’s team then found themselves in a tricky group in the Junior Championship but came through and went all the way to the semi-final where they put it up to Letterkenny Gaels but eventually lost by two points. Jason Hanlon could be a good addition next year but McHugh has stepped down so they are on the look-out for a new manager while Cillian Bonner has relocated to Australia and that will blunt their attack to a degree next term.

Johnny Bonner of Na Rossa.

32. Urris (36)

Urris found themselves down at the lower echelons of Division 4 and it was a bit of a messy league for them with some sides not travelling to Crampsey Park late in the campaign. They did improve in the Junior Championship and were in a very strong position after wins against Muff and St Eunan’s but then possibly lost their focus in Dunkineely when Naomh Ultan’s need for a result was greater. That saw them end up in the quarter-finals and they asked serious questions of Carndonagh before Conor O’Donnell came on and changed the game. Underage success has been limited but they will still be a team that nobody will fancy facing in next year’s Junior competition.

33. Moville (30)

Moville will be disappointed with how things played out in 2022. They pushed hard to be in Division 2 when the All-County Leagues were restructured but despite some decent results such as a draw with Sean MacCumhaill’s, they suffered automatic relegation. They still were said to be one of the main contenders for the Junior ‘A’ Championship title but things derailed when Malachy McDermott picked up an injury and they failed to get out of their group which was a disaster for Anthony Doogan’s side. The Carrick Field men have plenty of talent but need to find a higher level if they are to really push for the junior crown.


34. Naomh Ultan (34)

It was a strange season for Naomh Ultan as they had some real struggles towards the end of the Division 4 campaign, and lost to both Robert Emmets and Lifford as they struggled with a weakened side. However, they did improve in the Championship and rather surprisingly topped their group and that saw them go straight into the semi-finals. However, they were well beaten when it came to it by Carndonagh and missed out on a fine berth. Their Under 21 team held their own in the ‘C’ Championship but it would be a surprise if there is huge improvement in 2023.

Cian Kennedy of Naomh Ultan.

35. Naomh Padraig, Muff (33)

GAA followers in the county are waiting for Naomh Padraig, Muff to build on their underage promise but this felt like a wasted year. They were well off the pace in the league, and then endured a nightmare Junior ‘A’ Championship. They lost by 14 points against Urris and then failed to make it out of the group when they lost to St Eunan’s junior team. County panellist Caolan McColgan spent the summer in Boston and didn’t play a huge amount this season which didn’t help their cause. They did have a decent Under 21 team in 2022 and there is big scope for improvement but it’s time to start delivering.

36. Naomh Colmcille (35)

Naomh Colmcille’s trajectory continues to fall and they must be wondering when they will arrest the slide. There was a hint of optimism early in the season and they started the Division 3 campaign well by beating Naomh Colmcille. However, they fell away towards the end of the league when Stephen Davenport stepped aside, and they gave a poor account of themselves in the Junior ‘A’ Championship. Daniel Clarke has moved to England and will be part of the London senior panel next year, and he will be a huge loss. The Newtown men need to try and steady the ship in 2023.

Stephen Gallagher of Naomh Colmcille.

37. Naomh Padraig, Lifford (38)

It has been a tough slog for Naomh Padraig at times in recent years, but there were a few highlights during their league season this year. They won four of their league matches and drew another three which shows that they were quite competitive in Division 3 this year. Unfortunately there was more disappointment in the Junior ‘B’ Championship and they failed to it through to the final, when they were beaten in extra-time by Naomh Ultan. Sean McConnell has stepped aside after getting the club back onto a sounder footing, and they will be aiming to kick on again next term.

38. Pettigo (39)

It is a challenge for a small club like Pettigo to compete and they won one game in the league this year. That came against Robert Emmets when they got the better of the Castlefin side by a point on home turf. However, the Junior ‘A’ Championship is just a level above their capabilities at the moment. They did put up a good showing against Moville, but then suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Na Rossa and Letterkenny Gaels. It would perhaps make more sense if they competed at Junior ‘B’ level again to give more competitive football to their players.


Robert Emmets’ Neil Mulcahy.

39. Robert Emmets (37)

It was a disappointing year for Robert Emmets, and they didn’t offer much throughout the campaign. Corrie-Lee Bogan’s transfer to Convoy was a huge blow as it took away their main scoring threat. They did finish the league with a fine win over Naomh Ultan, and put in a decent performance in their Championship opener against St Eunan’s but things tailed off after that. Their reserve side did show signs of promise this year as did their Under 21 team, and new manager Liam Sweeney will be hoping to get a good bounce from Robert Emmets in 2023.


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