There was plenty of sporting success for Donegal in April with super achievements in athletics, equestrian, motorpsort, soccer, surfing and horse riding. The Donegal Sports Star Awards April Review looks at the local, provincial, national and international highlights from the month.
In athletics Letterkenny AC’s Nakita Burke was first home in the women’s category at the Queen’s Race Around the River 5k in Belfast in a time of 16 minutes 50 seconds. Milford man Brendan Boyce recorded a Personal Best of 1:24:31 in a 20k Walk Race in Podebrandy in the Czech Republic. In the middle of the month Lifford-Strabane AC member Claire McGuigan won gold in the National AAI 10k Road Championship race in Dublin.
On the first day of April there was a silver medal for Lifford/Strabane AC’s Diarmaid O’Donnell in the 60m Hurdles at the All-Ireland Indoors in Athlone and it was bronze for his club colleague Adrienne Gallen in the Girls U-16 Shot Putt.
Glenswilly woman Mary Devine, on Kingsman, was a winner and runner-up in two events at the Dressage Ireland National Championships in the Cavan Equestrian Centre. It meant that Devine finished second overall following the two days of competition. There were more celebrations for Letterkenny Blaze Basketball when the Club’s U-16 girls team won the the National Division B title. Just a fortnight previously the Blaze U14s brought home a first ever national title for the Club after winning the All-Ireland B title. The Letterkenny girls won two and lost one of their three group matches on the Saturday in Gormanston, Co. Meath. In the semi-finals on Sunday, Blaze defeated St. Colm’s of Kerry 41-33. Their opponents in the decider was Maree BC from Galway who had beaten Blaze in the group phase on Saturday.
Blaze won the final 46-41.
Coaliste Ailigh Letterkenny won the FAI Schools Minor B U15 Final with a 2-1 win over Ramsgage CS in Drogheda. Managed by Finn Harps captain Keith Cowan, Coaliste Ailigh came from behind to take the title thanks to an equaliser from Aoibhinn Ni Chonaill and then a winner from Erin Ni Dhochartaigh. PCC Falcarragh retained the National U15 Minor B Boys title after a 2-1 victory over Ghlor na Mara, Balbriggan. It was a super team performance from PCC who took the lead through Jamie Brennan in the 12th minute. But the Balbriggan boys were back on level terms on 38 minutes.
Daire Ferry the proved to be the PCC match winning hero in extra time.
Ellie Long of Carndonagh Community School and Emma Doherty from Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana were on the Republic of Ireland Schools U15 side that retained the Bob Docherty Cup in Spain with a 4-1 win over Gibraltar. Both girls featured in the round robin series of games which included a win over Scotland and a draw against England. On her debut Doherty scored the opener in the 2-1 win over the Scots.
In horseriding Martin Harley recorded his third win in Hong Kong in the Shek Kip Mei Handicap on the 29/1 shot General Iron. Rathmullan jockey Oisin Orr had a good April. He took a huge step forward in his career with a 36/1 double for trainer Dermot Weld at Leopardstown. The Rathmullan’s man first win was on 3/1 shot Imaging in the Heritage Stakes. And that was followed by victory on Titanium Sky at 8/1 win in the Fillies Maiden.
The excellent form for Orr continued with wins at race meetings in Naas and Dundalk. On the Saturday, Oisin rode Imaging to victory in the group 3 Gladness Stakes at Nass. The Dermot Weld horse came across the finish line at 7/2. At the start of April, Imaging had given Orr his first listed win at Leopardstown. On the Sunday, Oisin followed up his Naas success with his second win of the weekend on the Noel C Kelly trained 11/8 ‘Wild Shot’. Orr then enjoyed success in Cork with a winner on the Dermot Weld trained 7/2 favourite Georgeville in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden.
There was two surfing gold medals for Creeslough girl Bea Greenberg at the TBay Junior Championships held in Tramore, Waterford. Bea took gold in the U16 Open Division and she did it again in the U18 Longboard Section. There was success for Donegal at the Ulster Badminton Inter-League Competitions as they successfully defended the Todd Trophy and the Gilbert Cup title In boxing
there were Ulster Boxing Boy titles for Dunfanaghy Club members Luke Kelly who won the Boy 1 43kg and Anthony Doohan in the Boy 2 62kg Class. In the middle of the month Dungloe man Shaun Sharkey successful defended his Donegal Singles pool title. It was his fourth consecutive year to take the title and his 5th in total. Helena Sharkey was the winner of the inaugural Ladies Singles event
Young Inishowen Wheelers Club member Calum Morris won the U14 category at the Mountain Bike Championships in Co. Louth.
The Donegal U16s, managed by Luke Barrett booked their place in the Buncrana Cup final thanks to a 4-11 to 4-4 win over Cavan in Convoy on Saturday. Donegal will take on Derry in final on this Saturday in Buncrana (throw-in 12 noon). Meanwhile, the Donegal U-17s returned to winning ways with a big 14-point victory over Cavan on Saturday at MacCumhaill Park (3-13 to 0-8). Three Gweedore men Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Odhran MacNiallais and Kevin Cassidy were named on the GAA Club Players’ ‘Team of the Year’ at an awards ceremony in Croke Park. Cassidy was also one of the three names listed for the ‘Player of the Year’ award.
Despite a nine-point defeat against Galway in Corofin, the Donegal senior ladies had already guaranteed themselves a place in Division 1 semi-finals. Following the last league game of the campaign, Maxi Curran’s side actually finished up fourth in the table but only by virtue of an inferior score difference compared to Cork and Dublin who finished second and third respectively in Division 1. There was disappointment for the Donegal U16 side who lost to Derry in the Buncrana Cup Final by 1-07 to 0-07. Luke Barrett’s boys trailed Derry by three points at the break (0-05 to 0-02). The Donegal Minors lost to Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster Football Championship going 1-12 to 1-8 to Tyrone at McCumhaill Park
Donegal senior footballer Michael Langan was rewarded for his outstanding performances for Letterkenny IT with an Electric Ireland Higher Education GAA Rising Star Award. The St. Michael’s man was ‘Man of the Match’ in the Trench Cup Final which was won by the Michael Murphy managed LYIT back in February down in Mallow. Langan was the only player from that winning squad to be honoured with the prestigious Rising Star Award.
The Donegal Ladies dreams of a National League Final were well and truly buried by Galway at Pearse Park in Longford. Despite the return of Geraldine McLaughlin, Treasa Doherty and Katie Herron the Maxi Curran managed side played second fiddle to the Tribeswomen for almost all of the semi-final. It ended Galway 1-12 Donegal 1-5.
In early April the Raphoe Senior Ladies ended their league season with a 2-2 draw away at Portadown. Raphoe had already been promoted to the Premier Division after going through the campaign unbeaten.
In Mixed Martial Arts, Kildrum man Matthew Friel became the Akuma Fighting Championship Flyweight for the first time after defeating Ciaran Mulholland. Friel is a member of the Kombat Jujtsu Club in Derry.
There was a very nice start to the motorcycling season for Kilmacrennan’s Caolan Irwin who picked up three wins at the weekend during the the Masters event at Mondello Park. Kilmacrennan Motorcycle Racing brothers, Rhys and Caolán Irwin, both made impressive starts to their 2019 campaigns at the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship In Silverstone, UK. Another Kilmacrennan ls Richard Kerr was in fine form in the opening round of the Dickies Supersport BSB championship at Silverstone with a 7th place in Saturday’s Sprint race and on Sunday and he celebrated his 19th birthday by finishing in 8th position.
On the last Sunday in May, Donagh Kelly and Conor Foley won the Monaghan Rally in a Ford Focus WRC after holding of strong challenge from local driver Josh Moffett also in a Ford Focus WRC.
After a very difficult start to the Premier Division league season Finn Harps finally got a bit of joy against Northwest neighbours Sligo Rovers in the EA Sports Cup with an extra-time victory in Ballybofey. And it was a fairytale start for Stephen Doherty in his first ever appearance in a competitive game for Finn Harps as the U19 player got the winner.
Meanwhile, Finn Harps player Luke McGlynn was a member of the Republic of Ireland U15 side that secured an impressive 1-0 victory in their international friendly against Czech Republic.
Inishowen girls Kerry Brown and Erin McLaughlin were members of the Republic of Ireland U16 squad who drew twice with Belgium.
After consecutive defeats during the month against Derry City, Bohemians, Dundalk and St. Patrick’s Athletic, Finn Harps were denied a first win of the season by a late Sligo Rovers penalty as Ollie Horgan’s side had to settle for a 1-1 draw at the Showgrounds. Ollie Horgan’s side then secured an important 1-1 draw against Cork City at Turners Cross thanks to Keith Cowan’s 76th minute equaliser.
On the first Sunday of April, Bonagee Utd won the Donegal Junior League First Division title after a draw against Gweedore Celtic and were promoted to the Premier along with Cranford F.C. who defeated Lagan Harps. Letterbarrow F.C. finished runners-up in Division 2 and also secured promotion. Carndonagh were promoted to the Inishowen Junior League Premier Division. There was big disappointment for Glengad F.C. who lost their New Balance Junior Cup semi final 2-0 away against St.Michael’s of Tipperary
St. Johnston woman Tyler Toland started and Milford’s Amber Barrett came off the bench as the Republic of Ireland senior women from lost 2-1 to Italy in an international friendly played at the Mapei Stadium. Greencastle FC won the Clubman Shirts Cup Final thanks to a 3-0 win over Carn FC at Maginn Park. And also in the middle of the month the Donegal U12 Schoolboys advanced to the National Semi-finals after a penalty shoot-out win over Sligo-Leitrim. The two sides had ended up at 3-3 following extra-time. At the end of April, the Donegal U12 Boys squad also won the Sligo Super Cup after a penalty shootout success over the DDSL. The decider had ended 1-1 after extra-time with Carragher Friel getting the Donegal equaliser. Johnnie McGroarty’s boys had beaten Mayo, Derby County and Aberdeen on their way to the final. Buncrana Hearts player Leah McDaid was a member of the Republic of Ireland U19s squad for the European Qualifier Games in Norway.
Cockhill Celtic won their seventh successive Ulster Senior League title following a 2-0 win over Finn Harps Reserves thanks to goals from Peter Doherty and Gerry Gill. Glengad Utd qualified for the first round proper of the FAI Senior Cup after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Home Farm. Home keeper Kevin McLaughlin saved two spot-kick while Dylan Ruddy proved to be the ultimate Glengad hero by putting away the deciding penalty. St. Johnston man Shane McGinty grabbed a late winner as Ballymena Utd secured European qualification in a thrilling 4-3 win over fellow contenders Glenavon.
Fellow St. Johnston man Ronan Curtis was named Portsmouth’s Young Player of the Year at the Club’s annual awards function after scoring 12 goals in his first season with Pompey and he was also a member of the team that won the Checkatrade EFL Trophy at Wembley. Curtis had also been named the U21 International Player at the FAI Awards in March. On the last Saturday in April, Strand Celtic took the Saturday League One title with a 5-0 win over Oldtown Celtic. There was Ulster Shield success for Arranmore Utd as they defeated Cockhill Celtic Youths 3-1 after extra-time.
Letterkenny Rovers denied Cockhill Celtc a seventh league and cup double as Eamonn McConigley’s side won the Donegal News League Cup Final 3-1 with B.J. Banda the match winner with two goals after Cocklhill had come back to make it 1-1. Nigel McMonagle was match winner as Greencastle in the 1-0 Ulster Junior Cup win over Glengad.
Illies Reserves landed the Inishowen Division 2 B title thanks to a 5-4 win over Rasheney Reserves. Greencastle completed the treble by winning the Inishowen Premier Division after fellow title contenders Glengad could only draw 1-1 with Carn. The Greeks had already won the Ulster Cup and Clubman Shirts Cup.
Finn Harps underage player Fionnan Coyle was in the starting 11 for the Republic of Ireland side who made it two wins out of two with a 3-0 victory over Fiji in the UEFA Development Tournament in Israel. There was a national title for the Junior Loreto Letterkenny Convent basketball team who won an All -Ireland "A" Final in Dublin. A First Year Girls team from Coláiste na Carraige secured a place in the All-Ireland Basketball semi-final at the National Arena in Tallaght. The girls put in tremendous series of performances in a four team play-off in Glenamaddy, Co Galway with wins over St. Leo's, Carlow 34-30, Loreto Cavan 42-25 and Glenamaddy CS 22-9. Ciaran Dalton and Jamie Harris scored the goals to help St Columba's College, Stranorlar secure a place the National 15 Schools Final. It was a 2-0 win over St. Columba’s against Rice College in the semi final.
Four Donegal boys Daragh Ellison, Corey McBride, Jack Doherty and Lee McLaughlin were members of the Republic of Ireland Schoolboys side who finished their Centenary Shield campaign with a 5-3 win over Wales at the Home Farm Complex in Dublin. Ellison and McBride both scored in the Welsh win while another Donegal link was William O’Connor who was manager of the ROI Schoolboys squad this season. Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan was a member of the backroom team while Mickey McGlynn was the physio. At the national finals of the Primary Schools Sportshall athletics Gaelscoil Adhamhnain, Letterkenny won the title in the 3rd and 4th class boys section while Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, Letterkenny were first in the 5th and 6th class girls category at the Athlone Indoor Arena.
For further information on the Donegal Sports Star Awards go to donegalsportsstarawards.ie or visit Facebook Donegalsport Starawards and Twitter @DLsportstars.