Supporting Donegal from within Croke Park and… Guatemala

Mayan Donegal team
By Harry Walsh

A NERVOUS FOOTBALL fever has gripped the county ahead of Donegal’s historic All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin at minor and senior level on Sunday.

Flags are fewer than our semi-final appearances in 2011 and 2012 and we’re not being treated to ‘Jimmy’s Winning Matches’ at every turn of the radio dial. Maybe the mood is reflecting what the bookies are saying: Donegal at seven to one to win and Dublin almost unbackable at one to ten.


Yet, despite the neverousness Donegal supporters are not being found wanting. The game is a sell-out. GAA officials have confirmed that 82,300 supporters will be in Croke Park, over 25,000 from this county.

While this is the third time in four years that Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and his players have contested an All-Ireland semi-final, this is new territory for Declan Bonner and his minors.

It’s eight years (2006) since Donegal contested a semi-final at minor level while the county had never played in an All-Ireland minor final.
One of the GAA’s marketing slogans is ‘nothing beats being there’ and more than 25,000 supporters will travel from across the county to the capital for the game, with others coming home from overseas to cheer on McGuinness, Bonner and the Donegal teams at GAA headquarters.

One group of supporters eagerly looking forward to the game will be the ‘Donegal Creameries’ team from an impoverished parish in Guatemala.

The parish clinic has served a Mayan population for 48 years and its director is Sheila McShane who’s father Patrick emigrated to the United States as a young man from Teelin. Her family are based in Butte, a mining town in Montana with many Irish Immigrants.

“Our clinic workers, twenty-two of them, are mostly football players or fans. When Donegal won the All-Ireland I was happy and proud of my roots that I asked my cousin in Carrick if she could get me a Donegal Creamery jersey.

“She not only did this for me but she also sent me the team flag. I was able to make a jersey for my cocker spaniel, Coco, who is the team’s mascot. The Clinica Maxeña took the name Donegal Creameries for its team,” she said.


“We are surrounded by great poverty, a failed corn crop, decreased coffee harvest, hunger and unemployment. Life is very difficult in this part of the world,” she added.

Ms McShane, who was last back in Teelin, Carrick and Donegal in 2010 said they will be cheering Jim and the team on to victory in the semi finals against Dublin on Sunday.

While Donegal has yet to really embrace the hype that comes with still being in the championship come the end of August that will all change come 5pm on Sunday if Donegal are looking forward to a second All-Ireland final in three years. Who knows, one or two of the ‘Donegal Creameries’ team in Guatemala might consider making the journey back to Ireland for the third Sunday in September – All Ireland final day.

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