Could this be the year of the teenager for Donegal GAA?

The Sporting Diary with Sports Ed Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell


Peter Campbell

Could this be the year of the teenager for Donegal GAA?

The year of the teenager

When was the last time more than one teenager made their Donegal senior championship debut on the same day?

It's not something that happens very often and could be repeated on Sunday next when Donegal face Antrim in the first round of the Ulster Championship.

In any given year going back in time, the likes of Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, etc., all made their senior debuts while still in their teens.

Back in the early 1980s there was a big influx of young players, most from the very talented minor team of 1980. Joyce McMullin was a teenager on his debut in 1982 and Tommy McDermott and Matt Gallagher were also teenagers that day (their 20th birthdays were later that year).

A year earlier Eunan McIntyre, Charlie Mulgrew, and Martin McHugh all made their debuts on the same day. McHugh was 19, as was Eunan McIntyre, while Mulgrew had turned 20 earlier in that year.

On Sunday next it is very likely that Jason McGee and Michael Carroll will make their senior championhip debuts and both are just 19. Indeed McGee only turned 19 back in February of this year. Brendan McCole and Michael Langan are also in contention and are still teenagers, as is Enda McCormick. Not sure if Ethan O'Donnell has reached his 20th birthday, while Rory Carr would have been in the mix but for injury.

It is an exciting time for these young Donegal players. Hopefully, there will be a big crowd out in MacCumhaill Park to cheer them on come Sunday.

Antrim shouldn't (and I'm sure won't) be taken for granted. The odds on Donegal have shortened considerably over the last week. Presumably, there has been money laid, especially on the handicap betting.

It can be a great day for these young guns, with the prospect of an Ulster semi-final, probably against Tyrone, next on the horizon four weeks later in June.

When trying to do some research, I rang Edmund Brennan and asked him when three Donegal teenagers made their debut for Donegal on the same day.

"That would be 1981 against Armagh," says Edmund. "Name them," I responded. "Matt Gallagher" followed by a pause. "Joyce McMullin" and a longer pause. He was driving at the time and the thinking cap would not allow him come up with the third name.

But it was pretty sharp!

Then there was the unique day when four Aodh Ruadh players all made their Donegal senior championship bow on the same day. That was in 1974, the day that Brian McEniff picked up Gerry Curran on the way to the game as cover for Martin McHugh, who was doubtful due to injury. McHugh cried off; Brian Murray and Sylvester Maguire started, while Curran and Gary Walsh were introduced as substitutes!

Imagine Rory Gallagher dropping into Mountcharles to pick up, let's say Stephen Griffin, as cover for the game in Ballybofey on Sunday next because one of his forwards was doubtful!

How times have changed!

Good luck Stephen

Stephen McBrearty would also have been involved on Sunday but has decided to see a bit of life on the other side of the Atlantic. Who can blame him. You only get a chance like that once in a while and he's young enough to come back and play a part in the future. Given his display for Kilcar in the club championship, he could have been running into a bit of form.

But no doubt he will be back in August and hopefully will be involved again with Donegal in the future.