The first Donegal Sports Star Awards review of 2016 saw the January headlines being dominated by athletics. Milford man Brendan Boyce had a good month as he steps up his bid for success at the Rio Olympics.
First the Letterkenny AC race walker went to Paris where he finished second in a 5k indoor event behind fellow Irish man Rob Heffernan in a time of 20 minutes 18.52 seconds at the SPN Vernon meeting.
And on the last day of January Boyce set a new ‘Personal Best’ and recorded an Ulster record as he finished eighth in a 5,000m Race Walk in Bratislava, Slovakia
The remarkable Inishowen AC runner Pauric McKinney won the Over-50’s Masters’ Cross-Country title in Dundalk and was also fourth overall in a time of 24 minutes and 18 seconds. Tirconaill AC’s Kelly McGrory won the U23 Women’s 400m Final at the Junior & U23 Championships in Athlone while Cyril O’Boyle became the inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame at the Donegal Athletics Board annual awards function at the Finn Valley Centre.
On the last Friday of the month and for the second successive year Mark English was named Overall Donegal Sports Star Award winner after that major European silver medal success in 2015. English became only the second person to win top award on two successive years. And he is only the fourth individual to have taken the overall honour twice. There was also another first as husband and wife Sean and Irene McFadden both won awards at the function, which attracted a record crowd of over 750 to the Mount Errigal Hotel.
January was very good for the sport of martial arts with gold for Ramelton man Brian ‘Barney’ Coyle and Laghey’s William Timoney at the European Jiu-Jitsu Championships. Coyle won gold at brown belt in the Light Featherweight Division in the Masters 1 section. Convoy man TJ McMenamin competing in the masters section, took bronze in the blue belt, medium-heavy category. There was disappointment for Newtowncunningham’s Jordan Boyce in the World Youth Darts Final as the 16-year-old Deele College student lost 3-2 to Joshua Richardson.
But there was plenty of success for Donegal darts at the West Coast Challenge in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon. The men’s senior team, who won a Donegal Sports Star Award two years ago, took their 10th title while the Donegal youths also won in the final. There was singles senior and youth success respectively for Anthony Whoriskey and Alistair Moore. On the second day of the month there was huge disappointment for the Raphoe senior ladies hockey side who just failed in their attempt for a first Ulster Cup title losing 3-2 on penalties to Ballymena after the final had ended 1-1 at the end of extra-time in Colraine.
In boxing Twin Towns BC boxer Cathal Gallagher won the Ulster Novice Intermediate Light-middleweight final in Belfast defeating Ciaran Walsh from the Dockworkers Club in the final. Defending champions the Donegal Ladies Indoor Bowls team reached the McIlroy Cup Final again after defeating West Down in an away fixture. Meanwhile Joseph Duffy was well beaten by Dustin Poirier in a UFC lightweight contest in Las Vegas.
On the first day of 2016 St. Eunan’s suffered a heavy defeat in the Ulster Minor Club Championship Final in Belfast going down to Crossmaglen the Armagh champions. However, there was one positive when news emerged after the decider that a string of outstanding performances saw talented St. Eunan’s forward Niall O’Donnell being named as the Player of the Tournament. The Donegal U21s drew 1-9 each with Mayo in the North West Cup Final after extra-time at the Sligo Centre of Excellence. There was a stand-off at the final whistle as Mayo wanted to play to find a winner on the day but Donegal manager Declan Bonner refused to continue primarily on player welfare grounds.
The Donegal senior opened their competitive season with a 1-11 to 0-11 McKenna Cup win over Down with Frank McGlynn in a new centre-half-forward role getting the all important goal just a minute into the game at McCumhaill Park. It was the day when a significant milestone was reached by Michael Murphy who came off the bench to make his 100th appearance for Donegal. Rory Gallagher’s senior side then lost surprisingly to St. Mary’s College Belfast in the McKenna Cup at the O’Donnell Park going down 2-6 to 0-8. And Donegal’s title ambitions in this competition came to an end at Brewster Park as Fermanagh took victory on a final score of 0-12 to 0-8.
Glenfin club member and player Maggie Farrelly made history when she refereed the Dr McKenna Cup game between Fermanagh and St Mary’s College at Garvaghey. The Co. Cavan native became the first female to referee a senior inter county Gaelic football match which Fermanagh won 1-13 to 0-14. On the second Friday of the month Kilcar won the Donegal U-21 A Final overcoming St. Eunan’s 0-13 to 1-8 in Ballybofey. January also saw the GAA community say a sad farewell to one of the county’s great players Donal Monaghan who was a member of the first Donegal senior side to win an Ulster title in 1972.
The Donegal senior ladies manager Michael Naughton was elected President of the Ulster Ladies GAA Council while there was a Gaelic Life All-Star Award for Bundoran’s Christy Keaney. At the end of the month Donegal got their National Football League campaign of to the best possible start with an easy 3-15 to 0-7 win over Down in Newry. And the Donegal Ladies snatched a late Division 2 League victory in a new season opener against Westmeath in Mullingar with the help of second half goals from Yvonne McMonagle and two from sub Amber Barrett.
Ownies Bar Dungloe were beaten in the Westmeath Open Pub/Club challenge going down 13-6 to Balreask (Meath). Rathmullan Celtic made their exit from the FAI Intermediate Cup going down 2-0 to Limerick side Regional Utd at the Flagpole. Conor Gormley from Ramelton and Sean McBride (Ballybofey) were included in a Republic of Ireland home based squad for a series of upcoming home internationals.
Drumkeen Utd won the Donegal Youth League title after a 3-0 win over Gweedore Utd while last year’s Donegal Sports Star ‘Appreciation’ Award winner Brid McGinty and her Lagan Harps U18 side are looking forward to the FAI Umbro Women’s Under-18 Cup Final after a fine 4-2 win over Cork side Douglas Hall at Parnell Park in Dublin. The Donegal Junior League progressed to the quarter-finals of the Oscar Traynor Cup with a 3-2 victory over the United Churches League thanks to goals from Chris Malseed, Kyle Black and an own goal. First half goals from Paul McVeigh and Darren McElwaine saw Letterkenny Rovers secure a place in the quarter-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup at the expense of Cork side Midleton with a 2-1 victory at the Aura.
In Secondary Schools sport two-second half goals from Cathal Farren gave Carndonagh Community School the Ulster Senior Schools title in a 2-1 win over Loreto Community School Milford who had taken the lead through a Conor Gormley at Orchard Park in Convoy. But there was success for Loreto Community School Milford who were crowned Ulster U17 champions after a 3-2 victory over Abbey Vocational School. And the 2014 Donegal Sports Star ‘Secondary School’ Award winners Mulroy College Milford booked their place in the All-Ireland Senior Girls B Final for the third successive year thanks to a 3-1 win over the East Glendalough School (Wicklow) in Gortakeegan (Monaghan) with the goals coming from Caoimhe Walsh, Nicola Devenney and Zoe Green.
But there was defeat for Gweedore Community School in the semi-final of the FAI Schools competition going down 4-0 to Gaelchoailste Na Mara Arklow on Clones. In GAA St. Columba’s C.S Glenties booked their place in the semi-finals of the Ulster Markey Cup after a dramatic 6-4 to 3-10 victory over Breffni College, Cavan in Irvinestown. Abbey Vocational School’s U16 Girls won the All-Ireland ‘C’ Basketball Final 35-25 against St. Aloysius Carrigtwohill at the National Arena in Tallaght and at the same venue there was also success for Coaliste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon who lifted the All-Ireland Schools U16B cup thanks to a 42-31 victory at the National Arena in Tallaght. There was contrasting results in the Markey quarter-finals for two Donegal schools with Abbey VS easily overcoming Ballybay C.C. but there was a heavy defeat for Magh Ene Bundoran going down 3-14 to 0-7.
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