Buzz in Donegal reminiscent of 2012 for McColgan

CAOLAN McColgan says the buzz in the county reminds him of 2012 when he was growing up following the team.

The Naomh Pádraig Uisce Chaoin man was only ten years old when Donegal last won the All-Ireland, but he was a regular match goer of the side when Jim McGuinness, pictured below, was last in charge.

And he believes that the good times of the early 2010s have returned with the help of the manager.


“There is a real buzz about the county and having Jim back is great and we’re enjoying playing football so hopefully we can keep it that way,” McColgan said at the launch of the All-Ireland Senior Championship in Maghera.

“It’s the same as when we were growing up, we loved the Donegal players and idolised them as the young boys about the club too and now it’s no different.

“I used to go to every game as a wee boy, I was ten when we won the All-Ireland so I was only young.

“I was there in 2012 and then (the players) coming around the club a few days later, you were looking up at the stage with the players and it was great.

Now 21, McColgan had to watch on when in the panel in 2022 as Declan Bonner’s side lost the Ulster final to Derry before a disappointing defeat to Armagh.

He got his first chance under Paddy Carr in the McKenna Cup and his first league appearance came as he put in a Man-of-the-Match performance against All-Ireland champions Kerry as Donegal triumphed in MacCumhaill Park.

McColgan kicked three points in that win and while it was a disappointing campaign overall for Donegal, the Naomh Pádraig man was glad to get the chance to break into the team.


“I was in and out in 2022 after the Under 20s season so I had a bit of training under my belt, but I was involved and I knew all the boys so I was just looking forward to the next year and getting my full debut.

“We had a lot of injuries last year which wasn’t good for Donegal but it was good for me to get the foot in the door and get my debut so I was happy enough with my year, but it was frustrating in the teams perspective. We all looked up to him (McGuinness) growing up and he’s a great manager, he has a great knowledge of the game and has his homework done for every game.

“Everyone knows there are great footballers in Donegal, last year wasn’t great and we had a lot of injuries but we knew if we got the right man in front of us that we’d do well so we’re going alright now.”

With the return of McGuinness, a lot was talked about on his tough pre-season regimes but McColgan had little involvement as he got surgery on his hamstring last October.

He got back fit for the end of the league campaign and the Ulster championship, and he admitted that the effort put in during the winter paid off for the team, while he also had to work hard to get back fit.

“There’s always games coming around the corner so you can’t do too much (training). The McKenna Cup starts the first week of January and you’re straight into the league after that, then there’s no real break going into the championship.

“We were more excited, we needed that work and that’s probably why we’ve done so well this year.

“I missed a lot of pre-season but from watching the boys nothing beats hard work.

After the win over Tyrone in the first group stage game, Donegal were shocked by Cork a week later in the second game.

Facing Clare in Castlebar in the final game, a big win was needed along with Tyrone beating Cork and it worked out perfectly for the side, with McColgan emphasising the importance of topping the group and having an extra week off as he is hopeful of making an appearance against Louth this weekend after suffering another hamstring injury in the Ulster final.

“Everyone wanted the week break because it’s an easier road to the final having a game less so it’s about getting the body right and focus on the quarter-finals.

“You can only really look at the next game so we’ll look forward to that and a semi-final will come quick after that if we make it that far.

“There’s no bad team left in the competition and they all want to win an All-Ireland.

“It’s just about focusing on ourselves and what we can and work hard for the week.

“The week break was huge (between Cork and Clare); we had a lot of games thick and fast in Ulster and then straight in to playing Tyrone then down to Cork.

“The week really helped us and we had our work done.”

McColgan is one of three men from Inishowen in the panel along with Buncrana native Caolan McGonagle, and Conor O’Donnell from Carndonagh.

The county has sparingly had representatives from the ‘33rd county’ and no Inishowen side plays in the Senior Club championship, but last year Malin made the Intermediate final while Buncrana are fighting towards the top of Division 2.

And his own club achieved promotion last season to the second tier of the league, while they are also trying to push towards winning the Junior title.

The influence of soccer in the region has always been highlighted as to one of the reasons why there are fewer gaelic players playing and representing the county, with the Naomh Pádraig man also having a bit of a soccer background, most recently playing for Cockhill Celtic in the FAI Cup against Bray Wanderers last July.

And despite his soccer background, when asked about taking a penalty in the Ulster final, he was glad he didn’t hit one with how impressively his teammates dispatched them to win 6-5 and take home his first Ulster title.

“I have always been Gaelic first, I did play soccer a lot growing up but Gaelic was my number one and all I’ve wanted to do is play for Donegal.

“My dad played both but Gaelic was the favourite growing up for me.

“There are a lot of good players in Inishowen, it’s just getting them away from the soccer would make it a bit easier but there are some teams going well, Malin are in Division 1 and Buncrana aren’t far away either.

“I was thinking about it (hitting a penalty) but I wouldn’t have the best penalty record, one of my friends reminded me about it a couple of weeks before and it kind of put me off it a bit!

“We didn’t practice penalties once in training, it was just all on the day.

“But we have a lot of good soccer players in Donegal, a lot that would have played underage for Ireland and they took them well to be fair.

“It was surreal winning, it was a great buzz and even going back to Donegal Town with the supporters out in their thousands, it was great to have the Ulster title back in Donegal.”

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