There will be sprinkling of Donegal interest at the Scottish County League final, which takes place at Portobello Rugby Club in Duddingston, southwest Edinburgh, on Saturday (throw-in 1pm).
Dunedin Connolly’s from Edinburgh will take on Glasgow’s Tir Conaill Harps in attempt to win the title for the fourth year in succession and it promises to be a close run affair. The last meeting of the sides at Easter ended in stalemate, Tir Conaill Harps 2-6 Dunedin Connolly’s 1-9 - a fiesty occasion where three players were shown red cards.
Connolly’s manager is Cormac O’Gara from Glencolmcille, who is in his second spell in charge after a brief spell in 2009. He won the British Championship with Connolly’s then as well as guiding Napier University to a British title - the first time any Scottish teams ever won anything in Britain. He has led Connolly’s to the upcoming final after an unbeaten run in the league campaign. O’Gara has lived in the city for eight years now and works as a civil engineer. He has also figured heavily for Naomh Columba in the past.
Johnny McGill from Ardara, who possesses winners’ medals from the Donegal 2004 Raidio na Gaeltachta SFC and All-County League as well as one from the Boston Championship from 2005, is also on board. McGill has played underage for Donegal and has also represented Scotland in Australian Rules football.
Liam McGinley from Buncrana is also a key figure of the current squad. He has previously tasted All-Ireland success with NUI Galway in the Fresher’s Championship as well as having won the New York Championship with Donegal New York.
The Glasgow side possess Paul Doohan, from Cloughaneely; Gaoth Dobhair pair Adrian Diver and Neil McBride, Manus Brennan and Derrick McGrath from Dungloe, Glenswilly’s Daniel Gallagher, Darragh Doherty from Carndonagh, Glencolumbcille native Barry Doherty and St Naul’s Donough McBrearty and Paddy Brady.
Tír Conaill Harps are the biggest GAA club in Scotland in terms of structure and has a fully integrated youth system fielding teams for all age groups. Harps club was formed in 1994 following an amicable break away from the Pearse Harps club by the underage football section on Glasgow’s south side. They are a community based registered charity which provides opportunities for young people to play and enjoy the Gaelic games.
The club has played their home games at the GAA owned Pearse Park in Cambuslang, formally known as East Field. The Park was the first GAA sports field in Glasgow and was made possible by the great efforts of Eoin “Owenie” Kelly from Fermanagh.
After the park was condemned for health and safety reasons by the GAA the club moved to Nethercraigs Sports Complex, Corkerhill, using a rugby pitch. The won back-to-back league titles in 2001 and 2002.
Meanwhile, at Connolly’s in Edinburgh, taking up the role as PRO on the Connolly’s committee this year is Jonathan Foley. He is a native of Letterkenny and was a part of the St Eunan’s squad that reached the junior county final last year. Foley is currently working a secondary school English teacher in the north of the city where he also runs a GAA interdisciplinary programme out of the school.
On the current ladies team, Veronica Walls has played with Naomh Bríd – where members of her immediate family remain very much heavily involved with the club – as well as with Aodh Ruadh in Ballyshannon. Currently, she works as a PE teacher in Fife and made a number of appearances on the county minors and senior ladies team in the mid 1990s.
Another from the St Eunan’s club in Letterkenny is Niamh Morrison. She works as a pharmacist in Edinburgh and has tasted victory in numerous championships and leagues at underage level. She was also crowned as Ulster and All-Ireland Intermediate champion in 2010 and a National Football League Division Two winner that same year.
From the Naomh Mhuire club in Convoy, Letterkenny native Lydia Fowley joined Connolly’s earlier this year. She is presently doing a post-graduate conversion course to adult nursing after having graduated from LYIT last year.
There is a common belief around the Edinburgh club that although they were formed in 1988, it was not until the 2002-03 era that saw a real propelling of the club’s successes. This was largely down to the decision to create GAA teams at Napier and Heriot-Watt universities.
Among that period of transition was Aidy Martin from the Four Masters club in Donegal Town. As well as him, there was another Donegal man who figured and that was Tommy Deane. The Kilcar man had been involved with Connolly’s between the years 2001 and 2007 while working for Laing and O’Rourke construction in the capital city.
Going further back in history, there was another few notable moments that shaped Dunedin Connolly’s by the good work of persons from this county. When the club moved from its original home of a school-pitch in Broomhouse to a proper full-sized one at Portobello Rugby Club, this was all hailed as the good work of Frank Gallagher. The club crest was also designed by local man Ronan McGirr and his wife.
The most notable achievement by any Donegal man involved with Dunedin Connolly’s is undoubtedly that of Tony Haughey. The Lifford man is the club’s founding father. Establishing a club who played initially played at the humble grounds of St Attricta’s primary school outside the city, the club has gone on to become an institution of Scottish GAA. The first coach he appointed was Neil Doherty. Also a Donegal man who had migrated to the east of Scotland.