The McLoone and McGuinness families in Glenties have always been an intricate part of Naomh Conaill and now they’re driving on Donegal.
Three years ago when Donegal’s senior footballers were the first side evicted from the Ulster championship and then the qualifiers, Leo McLoone was one of the few who could see what the future might bring.
He was part of McGuinness’s U-21 side that had reached an All-Ireland final, won a club championship with Naomh Conaill as a 16-year-old in 2005 and their fathers, Big Jim and Leo, had been close friends for years.
“Before Jim took over the senior job, I think some of the senior players were looking in and thinking, ‘if we listen to this man he can take us places’, and thankfully it happened,” 24-year-old McLoone recalled this week.
Two Ulster senior championships, the second of which was partially thanks to a McLoone goal against Down, and an All-Ireland later, has proved his hunch was right.
Year three began with a 2-10 to 0-10 win over Tyrone and Down are next.
“Down had a great win in Celtic Park. It’s a very hard place to go and get a win, but we know how good they are. They’ve six very good forwards who take a lot of watching.
“Even from last year’s game, it was a lot tighter than the scoreline reflected. I think we definitely know how good they are.”
“But the more you win, sometimes, the more you want to win. We won our first Ulster championship and then our aim was to win another one.
“It’s no different this year. We want to go on and make it three years in a row.”