Donegal had to beat Armagh and Sligo to get to Croke Park in 1952

Peter Campbell, Spor


Peter Campbell, Spor

Donegal had to beat Armagh and  Sligo to get to Croke Park in 1952
Back in 1952 when Donegal won the Lagan Cup for the third time, there was plenty of football for the county players.

Back in 1952 when Donegal won the Lagan Cup for the third time, there was plenty of football for the county players.

The schedule for the month of March and early April 1952 went as follows:

March 9th: Donegal v Armagh, Lagan Cup final in Ballybay (Donegal 1-6, Armagh 1-6)

March 16th: Donegal v Armagh, Lagan Cup final replay in Clones (Donegal 2-6, Armagh 1-4)

March 23rd: Donegal v Sligo, All-Ireland league quarter-final in Glenties (Donegal 2-5, Sligo 2-4)

March 30th: Donegal v Fermanagh, Ulster Junior Championship in Glenties (seven of the senior team were picked on the junior team)

April 5th: Donegal v Cork, League semi-final in Croke Park (Donegal 0-7, Cork 3-3)

It was one of the most exciting times ever for Donegal footballers and the supporters turned out in big numbers for all of their games, not least for the All-Ireland quarter-final in Glenties where the official attendance given in the Democrat was 9,000 with gate receipts of £472.

But according to Glenties man Packie Boyle, many more gained entry through bushes and over ditches.

Packie says the pitch then was in Gortnamucklagh but there are houses built on the site now.

“This was a big game for Donegal. Frankie Brennan from Ardara was playing for Donegal. He was an outstanding footballer,” said Packie.


Before the play-off in Glenties, Donegal had two games with Armagh to decide who won the Lagan Cup (Ulster league). In Pearse Park, Ballybay before 7,000 spectators, extra-time could not decide the issue.

A punched ‘Mickey Ruadh’ Gallagher goal had Donegal ahead by 1-2 to 1-1 at half-time but by the end of 60 minutes, the sides were deadlocked 1-4 each.

Armagh went two points ahead in extra time but Sean McGettrick pulled a point back and in the second period Andy Carr got the equaliser.

Donegal: C Halpin; P Brogan, P Dawson, B Coyle; H Boyle, J Gallagher, P McGeehin; MJ Gallagher, F O’Donnell; F Brennan, D Moriarty, C McCauley; P Coyle, T Wickham, S McGettrick. Subsl., C Collins, A Rogers, A Carr, J McMullin.

Armagh: L McCorry; C Fegan, B Sealy, G McStay; E Morgan, D Slevin, S Quinn; P McKeown, B McCorry; G O’Neill S McBreen, J Cunningham; S Smith, A O’Hagan, B O’Neill.


In the replay in Clones Donegal proved the masters in some style. The Democrat report recorded:

“Leading by 2-3 to 1-1 at half-time, when it was evident that their opponents had well and truly shot their bolt, Donegal forged ahead and were not flattered by their 2-6 to 1-4 victory.”

The Donegal goals came Tom Wickham and Paddy Coyle and the Democrat report had high praise for the Donegal front line.

“Donegal’s second and equally important point of superiority lay in the displays of the majority of the forwards over the Armagh defence. The great displays of Patrick Coyle, Frankie Brennan, Tom Wickham, Connell McCauley and Charlie Collins gave the Tirconaill team a pull in this sector that opened the eyes of the critics who so confidently stated that with Pat O’Neill, the Ireland player, in the Armagh defence, the Donegal lads didn’t stand a chance. O’Neill had to play second fiddle to McCauley through the hour while Frankie Brennan completely mastered Ireland player, Sean Quinn, and Collins disposed of G Morgan with little effort.

“While honours of a special nature were taken by these three players, it was Coyle and Wickham who dealt the most crushing blows to Armagh’s morale. Creery was fighting a losing battle with Coyle, who from the throw-in continued to harass the defence and cut through it at vital times as a knife would butter. Wickham was far too agile and crafty for Seeley and his equalising goal in the 19th minute put Doengal well on the road to victory. The brilliance of these fine forwards overshadowed McGettrick, who did not fail to contribute to Donegal’s total and take part in movements with his partners which resulted favourably on the scoreboard.”

The only change on the Donegal team from the drawn game was Charlie Collins replacing the injured Dermot Moriarty.


It was then on to Glenties a week later for Donegal and a clash with Sligo to see who would make it to Croke Park and a meeting with Cork.

An interesting feature of the game was Tom McGettrick, Sligo born, was playing for Donegal while Ballyshannon born Tommy Ryan, was playing for Sligo.

Indeed it took a last minute goal from the aforemented Tom Wickham to secure victory for Donegal as Sligo really put it up to them.

The Donegal Democrat report said it was the least impressive display from the Donegal team so far in the season, but then it was their third game in as many Sundays.

Donegal led by 0-3 to 0-2 but two Sligo goals turned the game around and Donegal were one point in arrears with just one minute left.

The earlier Donegal goal had been scored by Charlie Collins.

“Then, the large home following got the greatest thrill of the hour when a shot by Charlie Collins rebounded off the upright and Wickham gathered to crash it to the back of the net.

“Although Sligo made a burst downfield and secured a further point before the full-time whistle, Donegal’s victory was secure and to a crescendo of cheering over 6,000 home supporters swarmed on to the pitch to give the players a heroes’ reception. Each of the fifteen players was borne shoulder high off the pitch, led by county captain Jim Gallagher, Ballyshannon, who was carried through the crammed streets of wildly excited people to the team’s head-quarters at the town hall.”

The Democrat report recounted how people had made their way to Glenties by all means with one story highlighted.

“While many instances of enthusiasm could be cited for both counties, I am sure the most notable I am aware of is that of the two Ballyshannon boys, Gerry Lappin and Peter Daly, who made the long journey to Glenties on bicycles. Gweedore people were there to a man, woman and child, no less than 45 cars and two buses travelling from this Gaeltacht parish to Glenties. Letterkenny, Ballyshannon, Donegal, Dungloe, Killybegs, Ardara, Ballybofey and Stranorlar also sent very large contingents. From every art and part of the county people flocked to the game.”

The Donegal team against Sligo was the same team that played in the Lagan Cup replay the previous Sunday.

An interesting note in the Donegal Democrat the Friday after the game was that there was going to be organised training for the semi-final in Croke Park on the following Monday.


“At a meeting of county officials in Glenties on Sunday evening it was decided to give the team a special course of light training and coaching at Magheragallon, Gweedore, starting on Monday next. At the meeting Conal O Fearradhaigh, OS, announced that several Gweedore families had offered to keep members of the team free.”


The Democrat also reported on the same page as the Sligo report that the Donegal juniors would be playing Fermanagh in Glenties on the following Sunday (just a week before the National League semi-final with Cork - imagine a county manager allowing seven of his players play in such a game at present!)

The Donegal team selected for that junior game was: J Gildea (Ardara); T Byrne (St. Eunan’s), P Dawson (St. Eunan’s), B Coyle (Gweedore); TJ Casserly (Carndonagh), D Bonner (Dungloe), P Bonner (Glenties); J McDermott (Ballyshannon), F O’Donnell (Killybegs); J McGettigan (St. Eunan’s), C Collins (do), A Carr (Killybegs); P Coyle, EJ McGonigle (Ballyshannon), S Curran (St. Eunan’s).

Reserves: S Finn (Glenties); P Gallagher (Rosses Rovers); J Kelly (Donegal); L Brogan (do.); E Cunningham (Erin’s Hope); PJ Gallagher (Gweedore); Hugh Gallagher (do.); C McBride (do).

The Fermnagh team will be selected from: M Martin (Maguiresbridge); F Maguire, E Duffy, J Durnien (Lisnaskea); S Gonigle, M Regan (Belleek); T McDermott, T Murray, T Callaghan, O Clerkin (Roslea); E O’Grady, F McAneney (Gaels); A McCaffrey (Tempo); J McCormack (Newtownbutler); J Maguire (Ederney); L McKinney, J Maye, M Mahon (Irvinestown); P Casey (Devenish); P Murphy, T McManus, J McCormack (Kinawley); P Maguire (Derrylin); J Cassidy (Teemore).