Many new records were set when Donegal won their sixth Ulster title in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones on Sunday last.
They were the first team from the county to win four games in the Ulster Championship in the same year and only the second in the history of the Ulster Championship to win coming through the preliminary round route, according to Edmund Brennan.
Manager Jim McGuinness became only the second Donegal man after Brian McEniff to lead a Tironaill team to Anglo Celt success.
The panel of 31 will all receive their first Ulster Championship medal and many of those are also setting records as Fr. Sean O Gallchoir pointed out in our Supplement last week. Before Sunday no player from Naomh Conaill, St. Michael’s, Glenswilly, Buncrana or Glenfin had played on an Ulster final winning team. Now there are new heroes who have joined ‘The Club’.
It is very special for those players - and for those clubs - and the excitement generated in small communities will remain for a long time.
For those who support Donegal, it has been a long wait since the last success. Anyone now in their 50s will have attended all six successful finals from 1972 (which was my first final). Since then the record stands at: Played 13, won 5, lost 8. The good days stay longer in the memory.
The buzz around this week after winning an Ulster title is close to matching what was achieved in September of 1992 - people of all ages in areas that would not normally be interested are talking about nothing else.
The manner of the victory and the decisive nature of it has touched a nerve among all Donegal people at home and abroad.
Already plans are being put in place to have this Donegal panel well prepared for their quarter-final - their opponents will be revealed when the draw is made this weekend.
But whatever lies ahead for Jim McGuinness and his team, they have Donegal proud in 2011, winning Division Two of the League and now bridging that 19 year gap with Ulster success.
There will be more individual awards ahead for members of the team, but it has been the team ethic that has led to Sunday’s success. After the first game I mentioned that Neil Gallagher’s time would come before the summer was out and he delivered when called upon. His ball winning ability and his composure on the ball was a vital cog on Sunday. Someone said he didn’t hop or solo the ball once while in possession; just moved it on quickly.
Michael Hegarty’s smile at the final whistle reflected what it meant to the senior member of the squad. Before going any further, I have to set one record straight. I was fed a little nugget of incorrect information by his brother Noel for last week’s feature on the Kilcar man. I’m now reliably informed that Lady Gaga is not part of his music repertoire, and he got plenty of ribbing about it last week. If Sunday’s display is linked to Lady Gaga, maybe Noel will lend him the CD for another couple of weeks!
It has taken a while for the Donegal supporters to buy into the McGuinness master plan, but they did the players, management and county proud on Sunday. They came out in numbers that would have matched Armagh and Tyrone in their glory days. Hopefully, they will keep doing this.
Some of those supporters were able to give Derry’s Joe Brolly some of his own treatment when they met him outside Clones on Sunday. Brolly was seen delivering some of his hairdryer treatment to his young son as he was hurrying away from St. Tiernach’s Park with a scowl on his face, as Donegal supporters reminded him of ‘98.
Jim McGuinness is not just planning for 2011. He has already spoken to players outside the present panel who could feature in the future. That is just how he works.
He had his Donegal panel back in the pool on Monday and Tuesday night. The celebrations are over and he is getting down to work for the quarter-final. There were calls for McGuinness for President on the Diamond on Donegal Town on Sunday night.
The Presidential election is set for October 21st.
Getting to visit Dublin in September will be first on his agenda.