We must never forget what has been achieved by this team

Peter Campbell, Spor

Reporter:

Peter Campbell, Spor

We must never forget what has been achieved by this team
When we sit down to review 2014 it will go down as one of the best ever years for GAA in Donegal, regardless of what happened on Sunday last.

When we sit down to review 2014 it will go down as one of the best ever years for GAA in Donegal, regardless of what happened on Sunday last.

The Ulster double was achieved with the Anglo Celt and An tAthair Ui Muiri cups in Donegal together for the first time.

The expectation levels, naturally, were raised that the Sam Maguire and Tom Markham Cups could make it the perfect year.

Perfection is something that is rarely achieved in any aspect of life.

When it comes to finals, there will be just two emotions, elation and devastation.

When it happens that both teams lose out, you have devastation on the double.

And that was how it felt at the final whistle on Sunday and what became even more apparent when the minor and senior teams returned to the Diamond, Donegal Town on Monday evening last.

It was a hugely emotional evening for the players, which reflected their own personal devastation at losing out so narrowly in Croke Park.

Thankfully, the Donegal public saw fit to make the journey to Donegal Town to give them the welcome they deserved.

By the time the players made their way on to the stage, the rain was falling heavily, but it didn’t deter the supporters from giving them a welcome home that surpassed the welcom e that Kerry were receiving in Tralee and Killarney.

It was a difficult place for the players, but they showed great dignity in presenting themselves on stage and in doing so gave great example to the young kids who had turned up to see their heroes.

Because that is what they are - heroes. A good number of them have turned 30 years of age. All of them have tasted much more disappointment than success in their football lives, but they have all shown remarkable maturity in dealing with both.

What has become so apparent from their responses and demeanour since Sunday is that they feel they left an All-Ireland title behind them on Sunday last.

Luck was not on their side and when they did get their noses in front, they did not kick on early in the second half.

Then at the end, a couple of inches denied them a replay against a Kerry team that were prepared to do anything that was needed to win a 37th All-Ireland title.

This Kerry team are a new breed and the cynicism displayed didn’t do them any favours.

Apart from instances of blatant fouling and the treatment of Michael Murphy being surrounded by players off the ball, the one incident which incensed many was when Barry John Keane ran 30m to kick the ball off the kicking tee as Paul Durcan was taking a kick-out late in the game.

The Kerry substitute had done something similar against Mayo in the semi-final in Limerick. The punishment of a yellow card is not anywhere near enough punishment. But then the powers that be were prepared to turn a blind eye to the incidents involving Kerry players at the end of that semi-final replay in Limerick. Imagine how Armagh and Cavan feel when their fracas behind the band prior to their championship game in the Athletic Grounds resulted in fines and players players from both counties receiving suspensions. It seems there is one law for Armagh and Cavan and another for Kerry.

It is important in a championship season that everybody is treated the same, but that is never the case.

Donegal’s stock is still high despite the final setback. Three Ulster titles and an All-Ireland title in four years is a phenomenal record.

Along with Dublin, Kerry and Mayo, Donegal have been in the top four over that period.

There will be individual awards in the form of All-Stars to be handed out in the coming months. There is no doubt that Paul Durcan will get an All-Star and he will rightfully deserve it as the best ‘keeper in 2014.

Ryan McHugh will get the Young Player of the Year Award and possibly an All-Star, as will Glenswilly pair Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher and Gaoth Dobhair’s magnificent full-back Neil McGee.

The only question remaining now is the future of the senior players and of manager, Jim McGuinness.

It was telling when speaking to anyone on Sunday evening or since then that everyone wants Jim McGuinness to continue as Donegal senior manager. But in the same breath people are keen to let him make his own decision.

Managing a county senior team to a level that they reach the latter stages of the championship is an onerous task and teams don’t have success without a huge and complete commitment.

When you factor in a county the size of Donegal, it makes it even more onerous.

Jim must be given space in the next few weeks to make his decision. It occurs to me that many of the players may take their cue from Jim’s decision.

Whatever the outcome, we must respect that decision, but until it is made, we must respectfully wait.

MINORS

Tribute must be paid to the Donegal minor team and management also in reaching the All-Ireland final for the first time.

They have added much to the great enjoyment which Donegal supporters have enjoyed this summer, winning the Ulster Minor League and Championship.

When looking back on Sunday, like the seniors, they will feel that they had a great chance to lift a first minor All-Ireland. They had a number of goal chances which just didn’t work out. However, the margins are small in these games and if you leave chances behind, then you will feel disappointed.

The management said they were happy with their preparation and tactics and they would do the same again if given a second chance.

However, one aspect of the game left people puzzled - that was the substitution of captain Niall Harley after he had been introduced in the second half. Harley had done well when introduced and hit a good point from a tight angle. It is only a small matter, but it is important that young players are handled with a degree of care.

But overall, just like the seniors, it was just not Donegal’s day.

Declan Bonner and this squad of players have had a remarkable journey over 3/4 years and given that players like Danny Rodgers, Stephen McMenamin, Ethan O’Donnell, Micheal Carroll and Conor Doherty are minors again next year augurs well.

Our U-17 team have already won the Jim McGuigan Ulster championship in convincing style so there should be a good bunch of players to represent the county in 2015.

GREAT YEAR

It has been a great year for Donegal GAA. The outcomes on All-Ireland final day should not be allowed to cloudover that fact.

We will await the decision of Jim McGuinness (and also of Declan Bonner) but we should never forget what has happened in 2014.

We will treasure the memories forever!