Donegal Ladies are hosting this year’s annual Congress of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association this weekend.
Ladies GAA delegates from the 32 counties and from units in England, Scotland, Australia and New York will descend on Donegal Town on Friday evening.
The Congress, which runs for three days, is in the Abbey Hotel and gets underway at 8 pm on Friday and will run all day Saturday with business finishing on Sunday morning.
It is a fitting tribute to Donegal Ladies football, 25 years on from the founding of the game in the county.
It is the first time the Congress is being staged in the county.
It is a tribute to the standing of Donegal Ladies football at national level that it fought off stiff opposition from four other Ulster counties, Monaghan, Tyrone, Cavan and Fermanagh, to host the Congress.
This was down, in many ways, to the persuasive powers of two men who are widely regarded in the association the length and breadth of the country, current Donegal senior manager and Ulster Ladies Association President Micheál Naughton and current Donegal chairman and former Ulster President, Hugh Devenney.
“Myself and Micheál (Naughton) spoke on the discussion about the hosting of the Congress at last year’s Congress,” said Hugh Devenney.
“It was Ulster’s turn and we felt that it was appropriate that we got to host it on our 25th anniversary.
“It is testament to the standing of Donegal Ladies at national level that Congress backed our call.
“We are really looking forward to hosting what is a big event. When you take in all the delegates from all the counties and abroad and the executive there will be in the region of 150 delegates attending the Congress.
“We set up a special committee to organise the event once it was awarded to us and they have been working hard and have put everything in place for the successful running of Congress.
“The first (Donegal) board was formed in early 1992, which is 25 years ago this year, and I got involved the following year,” explained Hugh.
“Donna Dunnion was the one that got me involved, she was only a young girl at the time and they were after starting a ladies team in Four Masters.
“Donna was only about 12 at the time and she was playing senior for the new team and her dad, Danny, was the manager and she asked me to give her dad a hand.”
Hugh was born and reared and has lived all his life in Cormullion, Laghey.
He played club football with Drumbar GAA club at juvenile, minor and junior level.
And when the club folded around 1970, he played for a couple of seasons at junior level with Four Masters.
“I had been out of football and away from the game when Donna got onto me.
“After a while I started going to county board meetings and from that I got cajoled into taking on jobs.
“And 24 years later I’m serving my fifth term as county chairman and with the exception of secretary I have held every other officer position down the years.”
He held the chair position first in millennium year, 2000 and he is into second year of his fifth term.
He has been President of the Ulster Council on two occasions and is currently on both the Ulster and National fixtures committee. Hugh is also National Culture and Language officer which gives him a seat on the national executive.
Twenty five years on from the late Gerry Griffin and Aidan Doherty first getting the wheels in motion, Donegal ladies football is in a good place.
The senior team are back in the top flight and more than holding their own.
They have won two of their four games and are sitting in a good position in the table after playing three of the four games away from home.
“The game took off from the word go and the fact that it coincided with the winning of the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time in 1992 was a big help.
“As we all know the county went football crazy after 1992. We reached our first junior All-Ireland final in 1993 and even though we lost to London, it was a great achievement in our first year playing intercounty.”
Donegal reached the junior final again in 1994 and again lost this time to Meath.
Donegal lost one more junior All-Ireland - 2002 beaten by Galway - before they finally claimed a first All-Ireland, the junior final of 2003.
Under the guidance of Maxi Curran, they finally climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand, after overcoming Waterford in the final.
An All-Ireland minor title in 2009 and an Intermediate All-Ireland and a first Ulster Senior Championship in 2015 have been added to the trophy cabinet in the intervening years.
“We’ve had great players and some very good people working with teams down the years and it took a lot of hard work and commitment from a lot of people to take us where we are today.
“People like Kenny Griffin. Kenny did unbelievable work at underage level and most of the current squad would have benefitted from his dedication and coaching.
“Kenny was manager of the minor team that won the minor All-Ireland in 2009. I think it is only fitting that we honour him at the banquet on Saturday night, given his contribution to Ladies Gaelic football in the county for the best part of the last 25 years.”
The special committee set up to organise the Congress is made up of Hugh himself, Micheál Naughton, county secretary Siobhan Coyle, Anne McKenna, Caroline Brady, Edel Flynn, Enda Bogle, Cathy Kelly, Deborah Lacey and Yvonne Harvey.
Hugh Devenney may not have been at the founding of the Donegal Ladies board but he became involved shortly after and has been immersed in the Donegal ladies game ever since.
And he has played a huge role in the development of the game, not only in Donegal but right across Ulster.