Tom Comack email@example.com @dgldemocrat
Peadar Mogan, who leads Donegal into Sunday’s Ulster Championship opener against Antrim, has already enjoyed success in 2017.
The young St Naul’s clubman and Leaving Certificate student at Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town, has picked up an Ulster Schools’ Gaelic Football All-Star award.
And as a result he now holds the distinction of being the first Donegal student from the Vocational School sector to be honoured with an Ulster All-Star award.
Donegal manager, Shaun Paul Barrett, has also put his faith in him and has named him team captain
It is a role he sees as a great honour for himself, his family, his club and his school. But it is also a role he is taking in his stride.
Peadar is one of five survivors from the team that won Ulster and went all the way to the All-Ireland semi-final before losing to Galway last year.
Aaron Deeney, Brian O'Donnell, Ronan Docherty and Jack Flannery are the other survivors from last season’s squad that are still on board again this season.
Jack Flannery missed most of last season through injury so really there are only four survivors.
Other members of last year’s squad, Michael Mulhern and Gary Molloy, were underage again this season. But a recent cruciate knee injury in club minor league game has sidelined the young Cloughaneely man for the rest of the season, while Kilcar’s Gary Molloy has been troubled by injury throughout the winter.
“There are only four or five that played last season, and I suppose it's our job to bring the rest of the lads back into it, especially now coming up to the championship,” said Peadar (pictured with Shield).
“It's a massive change because myself and Brian (O'Donnell) were actually known as the babies of the team last year.
“It's a big step up, and you're trying to help the boys, especially before games when some of them are nervous, or struggling to deal with different aspects of the game.
“It's up to us to use our experience and to say maybe slow things down, and get on the ball and try and dictate it yourself.”
“It's a new team and it's a young team, because we have a lot of boys that played under 16s last year, so it's a big step up for them.
“But everyone is dealing with it well and we're just trying to get it together,” said Mogan.
Donegal began 2017 as three in-a-row Ulster League champions and chasing an historic fourth in succession.
But that did not work out. A first day draw against Fermanagh, followed by two defeats to Tyrone and Derry, put paid to their league ambitions.
Ironically, they turned things around with victories over next Sunday’s opponents Antrim in their final game in the league.
And they followed that win up with victories over Down and Armagh to win the Ulster Minor Shield.
“We were starting to take shape in the last few games. Because it is quite hard at the start of the year, when you're mixing with the 17s from last year, and then the under 16s come in too.
“In the last couple of games we've gained a bit of confidence and we've got a few results.
“Boys are starting to understand their roles and what we have to do. It's starting to come now and hopefully we can push on against Antrim.”
Mogan reflects on the first win of the campaign against Antrim. “We were probably unlucky against Derry the week before. We were nine or ten points behind at half-time and we came back then and got level, but didn't finish out the game.
“We learned from that game (Derry) and we said against Antrim that if we got ahead,we had to finish out the game.
“Thankfully, we did and that kicked us on to get a few other wins as well over Down and Armagh.”
In a number of games this season, most notably against Tyrone, Derry and even Antrim, Donegal were slow out of the blocks.
They let all three teams run up big first half leads. Antrim led by eight points at half-time in O’Donnell Park.
They did manage to pull the Saffrons back to just about win with two points to spare at the end.
“It's all about hitting the ground running, and it's about every man trying to win his first ball. We cannot afford to let Antrim get off to the start they did against us in the league game.
“Hopefully we won’t because there is no second chance.”