Glenswilly continue to come of age

Alan Foley


Alan Foley

Glenswilly continue to come of age
Not even 32 years have passed since a group of Gaels from Glenswilly opted to form their own club.

Not even 32 years have passed since a group of Gaels from Glenswilly opted to form their own club.

At the time, their young men played football either with St Eunan’s, Glenfin or Termon - the three clubs whose influence splintered the parish.

So one night at Foxhall in the winter that crossed from 1981 to 1982, Manus McFadden was joined by Joe Kelly, Roger McDaid, Fr Eamon Crossan, Finbar Glackin, Jimmy Joe McGinley as the late Eddie McDevitt took the chair and Donegal GAA soon had a newborn club.

For three-quarters of their existence, Glenswilly had some fine individuals and enjoyed some good moments.

But in terms of team success, the Junior B championship win over Naomh Columba is 1984 was the only real highlight.

However, if there was to be a turning point in the club’s fortunes came when they defeated Cloughaneely 1-12 to 1-7 to win the Intermediate Football Championship in 2005.

Glenswilly went onto reach the Ulster final only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to a last minute Inniskeen goal.

But the championship run both domestically and in Ulster gave the team and its support a taste of things to come.

On the field, there was something of a golden generation, which was a by-product of the tireless work being put in at underage level.

Ciaran Bonner and Neil Gallagher, who was captain, helped Donegal to a first ever National Football League Division One title in 2007.

That was the same year that Michael Murphy, a precocious talent, announced himself on the county stage.

The 17-year-old smashed home a goal on his championship debut for Donegal in a first round qualifier against Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon under Brian McIver’s management.

Gary McFadden would be a county player by the following spring.

Glenswilly defeated Dungloe under the MacCumhaill Park floodlights to reach a first senior final in their history - in 2007, only their second campaign at the age bracket.

It was a local affair against neighbours St Eunan’s with some folk having a foot in both camps.

However, the Letterkenny side, who had lost both the previous finals against Naomh Conaill and Gaoth Dobhair respectively, used their experience to win 0-12 to 1-3.

A year later, Glenswilly, still under the management of Francie Martin, defeated St Eunan’s at home in a titanic first round clash only to lose out in a Convoy play-off.

But when Gary McDaid came on board to assist John McGinley in 2010, Glenswilly’s trend began to become an upward one again.

Late that summer, one Sunday evening in Letterkenny, Naomh Conaill won a dramatic semi-final with two goals in the closing stages from Anthony and Leon Thompson sealed a 2-13 to 2-8 win in Letterkenny.

Glenswilly were devastated but learned from the loss.

The draw for the 2011 championship couldn’t have been tougher for joint -managers McDaid and McGinley.

However, having overcome holders Naomh Conaill on an must-win game in Glenties, Glenswilly came of age to defeat St Eunan’s, who had lifted three of the previous four championships, in a replayed quarter-final.

Again, the draw was arguably as unkind to the Foxhall club with a well-fancied and re-emerging Kilcar their semi-final opponents.

A rare Gallagher goal set Glenswilly off to a novel final against St Michael’s, another club who had never taken the Dr Maguire home.

In one of the most open and entertaining finals of the last 15 years, Murphy’s brilliance eventually proved the difference.

He scored 1-7, with one of memorable goals on that first Sunday in October as he clutched Joe Gibbons’ ball towards the Town End overhead and almost ripped the Ciaran Gallagher’s net on turn.

It was a brave journey for Glenswilly but having reached the top of the mountain in 2011, they’ve scaled the same heights this year again.