After a super opening two months of the year for Donegal sport, the trend continued in March with a number of memorable successes for the county at provincial and national level.
Without doubt the top sporting triumph in March was the historic Rugby Grand Slam and Six Nations medals won with Ireland by Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton. Cappry native Muldoon is the reigning Donegal Sports Star Rugby Award holder while Stapleton, from Fahan, was previously honoured in the same category by an organisation that is now in its 38th year.
Also, Jason Quigley added to his growing international reputation in the ring by winning gold at a Grand Prix in the Czech Republic while seven boys who won national youth boxing titles. Letterkenny man Anthony Bonnar notably won a European Team Masters Snooker title in Serbia.
There was a triple team success for the Royal & Prior School at the national badminton finals and staying in Raphoe the men’s hockey side did the double by winning the Ulster league title, added to the Linden Cup they won in January.
Letterkenny’s Ciara Grant made three appearances for the Irish women’s senior soccer side; Amber Barrett (Milford) played twice for her country at U-17 level.
Leitirmacaward’s Carl McHugh was capped again at U-21 level. Ryan Rainey (Bonagee), Harry Doherty (Buncrana), and Peter Burke (Moville) all featured for the Republic of Ireland U-17 side, while Dale Gorman (Letterkenny) represented Northern Ireland. Dale’s Letterkenny Rovers Youths side, managed by his father Anthony, retained the Donegal League title.
There was a great weekend for county juvenile athletes at the national finals in Athlone with gold medals for the St. Johnston Kelly brothers; gold and silver for the Black brothers, Kilmacrennan; gold and silver for Blaithnaid Patton. There were also firsts for Kelly McGrory, Arlene Crossan and Tara Carr.
Three Donegal Sportshall teams won Ulster titles to qualify for the UK Finals in Birmingham (U-13 Girls, U-13 Boys, U-15 Girls). And the good form of Ann Marie Glynn (Lifford AC) continued as she won the Women’s Omagh Half-Marathon in a time of 1.20.03.
Twin Towns’ boxer Stephen O’Reilly won 81kg Irish Third level Boxing title, while after winning Ulster Finals 13 Donegal juvenile boxers qualified for national finals including Brett McGinty, St. Johnston (Oakleaf ABC, Derry), Michael Doherty, Illies; Martin Doherty Twin Towns; Stephen Burns, Buncrana; Liam Callaghan, Carndonagh, Conor Bianconi, Twin Towns; Patrick Sweeney, Buncrana; Terry Ward, John Bosco; Darryl Moran, Illies; Thomas Mongan Illies; Mark McCole, Dungloe; Michael Gallagher, Finn Valley; Michael McConigley, Letterkenny.
Seven youth boxing titles came back to Donegal after finals at the National Stadium. The champions included Michael Gallagher Youth Two 80kg (Finn Valley); Mark McCole Youth 3 (Dungloe) 63kg; Thomas Mongan Youth Two 50kg (Illies); Liam Callaghan Youth 1 46kg (Carndonagh); Stephen Bonner (Buncrana) Boy Four 91kg; Brett McGinty, St. Johnston (Oakleaf, Derry) Boy 4 63kg and Ryan Greene Bridgend (Oakleaf) Youth 1 52kg
Meanwhile, Joe Duffy won two professional boxing bouts in London. Brought up in Wales, Joe has strong family ties in the county with his parents from Inisfree and Meenbanad respectively.
Another Donegal fighter Michael Owen McLaughlin (Glengad) won his sixth professional bout in Boston in the middleweight division.
Meanwhile after great run there was disappointment for the Letterkenny IT team who lost the Irish Division Three Basketball College’s Final in Dublin.
But there was success for the Letterkenny Blaze U-18s who won a Northern Ireland Final in Belfast.
In terms of triumphs it was a quiet month on the GAA front with no joy for two secondary schools as Abbey VS lost an Ulster U-14 GAA Final while Carrick VS was beaten in a provincial U-l6 decider. In hurling the Donegal senior hurlers reached the Division 3A League Final.
In horse riding Conor Orr was named champion jockey by the North West Horse and Pony Club while in martial arts John Wilkie marked 35 years as a Shotokan Karate instructor. Carrigart native Neil Doherty continued his navigator success taking victory with Derek McGarrity, in the Bishopscourt Stages Rally.
Also in motorsport Declan and Brian Boyle won the Mayo Rally. In the middle of the month Greencastle mechanic John Carey was part of the team that helped Kimi Raikonnen win the opening Formula One race of the season in Australia
In the middle of March both Scoil Mhuire Bunrana and St. Eunan’s Coll win Ulster titles at Junior and U-15 respectively.
There was swimming success for St. Eunan’s College who came third a the Ulster Intermediate Age in Ballymena. The school’s Leon Vaughan takes gold in the 50m back stroke. The relay team of Leon and Caolan Vaughan, Matthew Curran and Oliver take bronze in both the Medley and Freestyles.
Emma Vaughan, Loreto Convent won silver (50m breast-stroke) and bronze in 100m Medley also in Ballymena. Former Donegal Person of the Year Anne Marie Ward (Portnablagh) took Silver and Bronze at an international winter competition in Russia.
For further information on the Donegal Sports Star Awards visit donegalsportsstarawards.ie