Paddy McGrath . . . set to join the '100' club
Paddy McGrath, Donegal’s tenacious and tight marking corner-back, is set to reach another major milestone in his glistering football career next Sunday against Clare.
The Ardara clubman didn’t feature in Donegal’s four games in the Dr McKenna Cup as he shook of another nagging injury.
However, he is one of a number of senior players who Donegal manager, Declan Bonner, is expected to turn to for the cut and thrust of Allianz league football.
On Sunday next in Cusack Park, Ennis, Paddy is to make his 100th appearance in a Donegal senior shirt. It promises to be another landmark day for the Ardara man, who turns 30 early next month and whose trophy cabinet includes one All-Ireland and four Ulster medals, an Ulster U-21, a Division Two League title and a number of Dr McKenna Cup winners’ medals.
Former Donegal star defender, Damian Diver, himself a member of the Donegal 100 club, is a clubmate of Paddy McGrath.
Diver walked away after 11 seasons in a Donegal shirt with little to show in the line of titles and honours other than great memories.
It has come as no surprise at all to Damian Diver that Paddy McGrath is about to reach such a major landmark in his career.
“It is all down to his pure dedication to the game and the county,” said the former county man.
“He is an unbelievably tight marker and unbelievable footballer. But that alone is not enough to achieve what he has achieved.
“He also has unbelievable dedication to training and he works really hard on his game and his fitness.
“When he did his cruciate a few years ago he was back into rehab and training straight away. He worked really hard to get back to fitness. Much of that work was done on his own and it is a very lonely time for a player.
“But Paddy just put the head down and got stuck in and he was back playing in a record time.
“He is a brilliant footballer. He is a one off and we are all very proud of him in the club and we are delighted for him with all the success he has enjoyed.”
Diver also insists the dedication and commitment is something he always possessed. And it was something that was very evident from his early days of playing underage with the club.
“Paddy lives down at the bottom of Loughros Point, which is a good bit out of the town. But he never missed a training session. His mother used to take him up every evening.
“He certainly was lucky, he just came along at the right time and made the U-21 team under Jim McGuinness and his career took off from there.
“I’m sure it was his dedication and commitment as well as his football ability that impressed Jim and was the reason he was always a first choice with Jim.”
Away from football Damian Diver also insists that Paddy McGrath is a genuinely nice fella and always has time for a chat when he meets people when he is out.
“He is great with young people. Any time he is about you see him chatting with them on the street. He just has a very good way with people and a real gentleman.
“He’s had his fair share of injuries, too, which makes reaching the 100 games all the more remarkable. Hopefully, now that he is fit again he will get a good run and add a good few more games to the 100.”
Paddy McGrath record
This season will be Paddy McGrath’s 10th season in a Donegal jersey. He made his debut as a substitute in the Ulster Senior Championship of 2010 against Down in Ballybofey, on May 30, and made his full debut against Armagh in that ill-fated encounter in Crossmaglen on June 26 four weeks later.
On that day he was handed the job of marking a young Jamie Clarke. He may well get that marking role again on the March 2 when Armagh come to Ballybofey for a league encounter.
His full list of games, courtesy of Fr Seán Ó Gallchoir, is:
See also: Declan Bonner's thoughts on forthcoming league campaign