BY CHRIS MCNULTY
FRANK McGlynn has replayed the 2014 All-Ireland final in his head so many times since that fateful September Sunday when Kieran Donaghy and Kerry dashed Donegal’s dreams.
The Glenfin man will make his first appearance of the new campaign on Sunday when he lines out against Queen’s University in Ballybofey, a game that will be his 115th for Donegal and his first under new manager Rory Gallagher.
With the exception of Rory Kavanagh, Leo McLoone and Anthony Thompson, all of Donegal’s leading lights have returned to the fold for 2015 and the light hasn’t gone out on that trio just yet either. McGlynn had a relaxing winter and is raring to get out of the blocks on Sunday again.
“Things have been going well so far,” McGlynn said.
“Rory’s got a good wee bit of work done with us so far and it’ll be good to get back in to test ourselves again. We haven’t much ball work under the belt yet but that’ll come with the games.
“It’s been good to see most of the players coming back. Hopefully a couple of those boys who haven’t come in yet will be back for the end of the month or into February. It has been very positive so far and Rory has been taking a sensible approach bringing boys back in on a phased basis.”
Sunday’s game sees McGlynn, Christy Toye, Paddy McGrath and Odhrán MacNiallais into the starting line-up as Gallagher begins the process of returning Donegal’s front-line men to action.
McGlynn said: “The likes of myself and Christy didn’t have club seasons that were too long so we have had our break and the batteries were recharged.”
Glenfin preserved their Division 2 and SFC status via play-off wins in 2014 and now McGlynn’s focus turns to Donegal and the task of keeping Donegal at the top table. Under Jim McGuinness, Donegal’s footballers reached never-seen-before heights, winning three Ulster titles and the All-Ireland in 2012.
Gallagher, who was assistant to McGuinness for the first three years of his tenure, has taken the baton and McGlynn believes that the new faces are better poised than players of his vintage had been when they were blooded.
He said: “When Jim came in for 2011 the whole thing went up a notch. It’s not easy to go straight in, but I think the new lads now are lucky in a way.
“We’d have loved to come into this kind of set-up when we first got involved. The young lads are all coming in with high confidence – a few of them were in an Ulster final with the Donegal under-21s. You’d be a bit envious of them coming into that set-up.
“Rory and Maxi (Curran) would’ve been central figures in the management team when we won the All-Ireland in 2012. Give or take a couple of players it’s more or less the same group of players. Overall between the panel and the set up there aren’t a lot of changes.
“It’s always good to see the young lads coming in. They’re a breath of fresh air and its a challenge for us when they come in and push hard, to see if we can compete with them.”
McGlynn knows all about waiting for the moment and taking the chance when it comes. He didn’t have to wait too long, but in the second League game of 2011, he came on as a 22nd minute replacement for Kevin Mulhern against Tyrone in Omagh. The chance came and McGlynn grasped it with both hands. He hasn’t looked back since; conversely, that night in Healy Park was Mulhern’s last for the county.
McGlynn, a schoolteacher at Stramore NS, said: “I was never a man for being in good shape early in the year – and that’s being kind to myself. I didn’t play much early in 2011 but I came on against Tyrone in Omagh and haven’t looked back since. There will always be a chance to get in or a chance to show in training that you can get in – once you get that place you’ll do anything to keep it. When you get in, you realise what you’ve been missing.
“First of all in the season you just want to keep fit. When you give so much, you just want to stay injury free. Even a small three or four-week injury could wreck your season. That would be a huge chunk out of training.”
At the close of each of the last two seasons when the talk of possible retirements has started, McGlynn’s name has been strongly mooted. Indeed, he had to come out to quash rumours in 2013 that he’d quit. He only turns 29 next month, but feels fortunate to have a supportive wife in Diane (nee Toner, a former county footballer herself), while he hopes that kids Harry and Gracie will have fond memories cheering on their daddy.
McGlynn said: “The retirement talk has probably come about with me being married with family commitments. The age bracket for retirements seems to come down all the time too.
“I’m lucky that I have plenty of support a home. Diane is always really supportive of the football and encouraging me to go back. The children are getting to an age where they know what the football is, that Croke Park is in Dublin and it’s great for them to watch the games and the big crowds.
“I couldn’t do it without the help at home. It’s great to be back and I’m looking forward to the new season.”
He’s wished since September that they could have another shot at Sam.
“If we had a chance to play the All-Ireland final again we’d do it – but the only way we’ll get back there is by going again,” he said, the hurt of 2014 still etched on his words.
“We have an insight into what’s needed to get to that level and we know what’s involved. Getting back there and righting the wrongs of last year is in the back of the minds. That’s a long way off for now so we’ll just take the training in our stride.”