BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FROM the freezing surroundings of Castlefin to the golden beaches of Dubai – how winning Sam Maguire can alter the January schedule!
Last year, the Donegal senior footballers spent bitter January evenings slogging it out at the home of Robert Emmets in Castlefin, but this week the 2012 All-Ireland champions have been lapping it up in the luxurious surrounds of Dubai.
The group are due to return on Tuesday after spending ten days in the exotic middle east resort.
The Donegal players, management and backroom team have been joined by their wives, girlfriends and children on the trip, awarded after their winning of the All-Ireland in September.
Based at the plush five-star Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, close to the Arabian Gulf Beach, it’s been quite the break for the champions.
Having left Dublin on a 9am Emirates flight on Sunday, the squad was treated to a New Years Eve bash in style on Monday night, as they attended the exclusive Sandance party at Palm Jumeirah.
Hosted by BBC Radio One’s Zane Lowe, the award-winning music festival Sandance presented a star-studded line up for, including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Roger Sanchez, Paul Van Dyk and an unforgettable firework display at midnight to ring in the new year.
Even in the middle east they couldn’t escape Donegal – Seamus Byrne, who hails from Five Points, owns the company which was the provider of portaloos for the 12,000 revellers at the Sandance party.
On Wednesday night, the Donegal party was given a ‘welcome to Dubai’ at McGettigan’s Irish Bar, owned by Kilmacrennan native and former Donegal Person of the Year, Jim McGettigan.
“The lads had a great night and we were delighted to host them. With us being from Donegal, it was brilliant to have in the team that won the All-Ireland for Donegal. Jim McGuinness was out here before and it was great for us to be able to welcome them to Dubai,” said Lifford man Michael McBrearty, who is the General Manager of McGettigan’s Irish Bars in Dubai.
The County Secretary, Aodh Maírtin Ó Fearraigh tweeted: “Just back from Mc Gettingans Irish bar in Dubai, owned by a Donegal man. Enjoyable night. Sleep now for beach in morning.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the squad took part in a Go Karting competition. Top of the podium were Paddy McGrath, Stephen Griffin and Antoin McFadden, ahead of the second-placed trio of Daniel McLaughlin, David Walsh and Martin McElhinney, with Glenties pair Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy and Marty Boyle third.
Six members of the 33-man All-Ireland winning squad of 2012 have been unable to travel, however. College exams have precluded Mark McHugh (Sligo IT) and Patrick McBrearty (NUI Maynooth) from going, while Frank McGlynn has stayed at home to spend time with his new baby daughter.
A delicate injury meant that Christy Toye was unable to fly, while Adrian Hanlon has also opted not to make the trip and Peter McGee is currently in Australia.
It’s not all fun and pleasure, however – the squad has been seen being put through their paces on the beach and tomorrow afternoon, Jim McGuinness has pencilled his squad in for a game. They take on a Gulf Selection for their first run out of 2013 – surely their most exotic of the year!
They are due to fly back to Dublin on Tuesday.