Former Donegal and Mayo Gaelic footballer, Martin Carney, was the Gaelic football award winner at the Donegal Sports Star Awards in 1977.
Martin, who is now living in Castlebar, was back in Donegal in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Tuesday as the special guest to launch the 42nd Donegal Sports Star Awards.
Martin was among a number of the 1997 award winners that were honoured again on Tuesday evening to mark the 40th anniversary of the winning of their awards.
Reflecting on his award four decades at a time when the county were at a low ebb in 1977, Martin said:
“At the time in Donegal, we had done very well in the early 1970s and the county team was on the wane a little bit at that stage,” the Ballyshannon native told the Democrat.
“We had done well the previous year and had won the Dr McKenna Cup.
“But the funny thing during my playing days in Donegal it was always a case of boom or bust.
“Any year we won an Ulster title we got to Croke Park and any year we didn’t win one we were knocked out in the first round and 1977 was no different.
“An awful lot of the players from the mid 1960s who had come through a number of good minor teams had started to move away.
“Tom Conaghan, who is here this evening, around 1977 started to sow the seeds and they flowered in 1982 and they won the All-Ireland U-21.
“But certainly in 1977 the Donegal senior team was in a bad place.”
The 1977 awards were the second year of the awards and the whole concept was still very much in its infancy.
“There were 20 award winners in 1977 and most of them came from a ten mile radius of Letterkenny.
“The awards were in the Milford Inn and all the winners were from the East of the County. I was the exception being from the South of the County.
“But I was well known and had known Letterkenny very well; I had spent five years in St Eunan’s College as a boarder between 1965 and 1970 and I enjoyed my time there playing football and the sports side of it.”
The Donegal Sports Star awards have really grown and evolved since those early years and is now one of the biggest sporting events on the Donegal calendar.
“There is no doubt about it, the Donegal Sports Star awards have grown enormously since that time.
“We had 20 award winners that year and in 2017 there were 47 different awards.”
The great strength of the awards Martin Carney believes is that it recognises all sports.
“In the first couple of years we had minority sports like clay pigeon shooting and cricket honoured and I think it is a fabulous thing for a county to honour its sports people.
“I think it is brilliant to honour any sport or any code that draws people into it and it gets people involved in the sport.
“It inspires others to win an award and it is a great credit to the Donegal County Council and the way they have continued to support the awards.
“The awards have grown from a small seed to a big tree now. It is a fabulous occasion and a fabulous award to win.”
This year’s Donegal Sports Star Awards are on Friday night January 26th in the Mount Errigal Hotel, with former World Snooker champion Ken Doherty, the special guest.
Tickets are on sale at the Mount Errigal Hotel, the sole outlet for tickets for the awards.