Dr. Maguire content at home in Kilcar for Christmas

Dr. Maguire content at home in Kilcar for Christmas

Peter Campbellsport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

"How is the Doctor," someone asked Mary Football recently. "He's very well," says Mary in reply. "He's home!"

Yes Dr. Maguire is back in Kilcar after a 24-year absence.

It was the big GAA story of 2017, a year in which Donegal failed to reach the last eight of the All-Ireland Championship for the first time since 2010; a year when Milford lifted the Cathal McLaughlin trophy as Intermediate winners and Naomh Colmcille went on to win a first ever Ulster Junior title for the county.

But the football story was dominated by Kilcar, who have the Dr. Maguire and the Democrat Cup for company as they celebrate Christmas in style. Indeed, but for meeting a superb Slaughtneil in the Ulster semi-final, the in-through men could be looking at an even bigger prize.

The last time the Dr. Maguire went to Kilcar, Mark McShane was captain, and his neighbour from just up the road in Curris, Patrick McBrearty, had the honour of raising the trophy in 2017.

McBrearty was not thought of as captain material until this year. However, the elevation seemed to inspire the talented forward as he was a leader both for club and county.

There was instant success for a new manager too. Barry Doherty took over the reins after Martin McHugh stepped down and he, too, proved to be the perfect foil, never taking the limelight and always heaping the praise onto his players.

While the county finall will not live long in the memory, there were a number of outstanding performances from Kilcar on their way to the decider - not least their demolition job on St. Michael's in the semi-final, which was shown live on eir sport.

Because of that display, it was always going to be a different game in the final with Naomh Conaill parking the bus and going quite close to bringing off a shock. But in the end Kilcar prevailed.

They went on to represent Donegal very well in Ulster, defeating Scotstown and then going down to eventual Ulster champions, Slaughtneil, in a cracking semi-final in Healy Park, Omagh.

It now seems almost certain that Michael Hegarty and Conor McShane will give it another year and with the maturing of the likes of Brian O'Donnell, they will be stronger for 2018 and will be the team to beat in Donegal.

However, there is some doubt over whether Barry Doherty will be at the helm in 2018. "It is a huge commitment and I wouldn't take it on unless I was able to give it 100%," said Doherty, speaking to the Democrat this week.

"If the AGM was today then I would not be going for it," said Doherty. However, the AGM is not until early January, so you never know.

But it has been something of a roller coaster for Doherty, who took over Kilcar on the day his son Von-Michael was born. He joked that one of the reasons he took the job was because his wife would be off for six months on maternity leave.

"It has been a great time for the club, the team and the community. It gave the village a lift," said Doherty, who felt that they got the odd bit of luck but that there was a very good team there.

"As a club, we can look back with satisfaction. We were not that far away in Ulster. We have to go back at it again and learn from Ulster and from the county final. We have to get back to a county final.

"It was a learning experience all year. Even for our oldest player, Mickey (Hegarty), it was only his second county final. It took us a while to get going in Ulster, but Slaughtneil are a very good team," says Doherty, who is happy that they gave of their best.

"Our target this year was to get back to the county and hopefully win it. Everything after that was a bonus.

"The double, winning league and championship, was special, considering the club had never done it before."

The manager also pointed to the strength in depth in the club now with the introduction of players because others were on county duty. "We only had 7/8 of the starting 15 available for most league games, but it games others a chance. We also played A v B games in training. Now we have a lot of younger lads coming through, many of them in defence, which is good, because of our six forwards, four are in county senior panel and the other two in U-21 county panel. It is not easy breaking in there," said Doherty.

Playing without county players, says Doherty, has been a bonus. "We don't fear playing without them. I remember at an AGM six or seven years ago, James McHugh, who was manager, said he would play away without county players and we have done that since and it has helped the club," said Doherty, who pointed out that Barry Shovlin and Barry McGinley came back back last year and after starting with the reserves were able to get quality game time," said the manager.

It certainly has been a good year for Kilcar and their large band of supporters. They are the team now with the target on their back and I'm sure there will be huge efforts made in the next few weeks to keep Barry Doherty on board.

As for Dr. Maguire, he never looked better. Mary Football is making sure of that!