Young talent giving Donegal great hope

Plenty to look forward to in 2017

Young talent giving Donegal great hope

The years just keep rolling by and we have another one behind us.

As years go on the inter-county front for Donegal it was a good enough year.

The seniors were beaten Ulster finalists and All-Ireland quarter-finalists. The minors won Ulster and lost to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final and the U-21s lost to Tyrone in the last four in Ulster.

The seniors first - they got off to a great start in the league and won their first three games.

But then they lost the next four but still qualified for the league semi-final which they lost to Dublin.

We had a decent run in the championship to the final and our two games against Monaghan were very enjoyable games.

The Ulster final against Tyrone was another of those finals we left behind us. We were in a good position at half-time when we led by three points.

But we did not kick on in the second half and were still in the game going into the closing minutes but Tyrone finished strong to win by two points.

The minors was the success story of the year. They won the Ulster Championship for the second time in three years. They beat Derry in the final and then went on to overcome Cork in the All-Ireland quarter final before losing to a good Galway team, who in turn lost to a very good Kerry side.

Despite the defeat to Galway, it was still a good year for the minors. And given that it was our second Ulster win in three years it augurs well for the future.

Obviously we have got our structures right and there is a lot of good work going on both at club level and also with development squad.

The U-21s went into the championship with a high level of expectation on the back of a number of good seasons at U-21 and the minors’ run to the All-Ireland final in 2014. They had a good win over Derry in Ballybofey but then came up short against Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final which was disappointing given the talent in the team.

Looking back on the season it was decent without being anything to write home about. The minors win was the highlight and is what would give you hope going forward.

Given our new standing at minor there is every reason to be optimistic about the future.

We have a good crop of talented young players coming and it is important now that they are nurtured and brought through and integrated into the senior team.

Kieran Gillespie and Michael Carroll, both from Gaoth Dobhair; Michael Langan from St Michael’s and Niall O’Donnell from St Eunan’s are young players that really stood out for me this year. They are definitely players with bright futures if they are willing to give the commitment.

On the club front Glenswilly were the story of the year in the championship.

They struggled in the league, but once they got Michael Murphy and big Neil Gallagher back they really got their act together in the championship. Michael Murphy is an unreal talent.

They pulled off a big shock by beating Kilcar, the raging hot favourites, in the county final.

Kilcar were the most consistent team in the county and deservedly won the league.

Burt won the Intermediate championship which was a fantastic achievement for them.

I was delighted for them and especially for men like Danny Dowds who kept the football alive at the club down the years.

Unfortunately, they had to play their Ulster Championship game less than 24 hours after the final. This was very unfair and should not have happened.

Burt are a hurling club, too, and it is a great achievement for all those running the club to keep the two games going and to be strong in both codes.

Downings won the Junior Championship, which was good to see too. Downings are a good traditional club with a proud history.

It is not all that long ago when they were up playing in the senior championship and hopefully this year was the first signs of a revival.

The best game of football I watched in the county in 2016 was the U-21 football final meeting of Gaoth Dobhair and Aodh Ruadh on the October Bank Holiday Monday.

It was a cracking game of football won by Gaoth Dobhair but only after they were given a right good run for their money by Aodh Ruadh.

The other good news story on the football front was Milford’s promotion to Division One for the first time in the club’s history. It is a huge achievement for the club.

MacCumhaill’s were the winners in the Senior hurling championship and the Twin Towns club are now the team to beat in hurling. It is good to see and when I think of it a picture of the late Justin Brady pucking around a sliothár with a couple of young lads in MacCumhaill Park, comes into my head.

Back to football; overall I feel the club game is in a healthy state in the county and all competitions are well run by the CCC.

Finally, to all Donegal Gaels everywhere I hope you had a happy Christmas and the best of good health and good fortune in 2017 and here’s looking forward to another good year on the playing fields.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.