Neil McGee’s late introduction down in Pairc Uí Rinn on Saturday last brought his all time appearances for Donegal to just one game shy of the Donegal record.
That record is held by the free scoring corner-forward Colm McFadden. The St. Michaels All-Star had made 173 appearances in Dr McKenna Cup, Allianz League and championship football when he called time on his career following Donegal 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Dublin.
An appearance against Kildare next Sunday in Fr Tierney Park, will see the 33-year-old three time All-Star full-back McGee join McFadden at the top of the list.
“I saw it somewhere last week, someone had posted it on Facebook. But being honest it is not something you think about when you are playing,” insists the Gaoth Dobhair man.
“It is probably something you appreciate and think more about when you stop playing and probably when you are older. When you are playing you just play as long as you can.
“When you do think of it though and realise I have almost reached Colm McFadden’s record and given all that he has achieved and won in the game, it is a good achievement alright.
“It would nice to get playing next Sunday against Kildare. The focus now has to be on the championship and it would be good to get a game or two before the championship.
“Paddy McGrath came back last weekend against Cork. I got a minute and Michael (Murphy) and Leo (McLoone) have come back in the last few weeks and hopefully myself and Frank (McGlynn) get a run this weekend against Kildare.
“The young lads have done well in the league but it is good to see the older and more experienced players coming back as we seen with Michael, Leo and Paddy. It is important to get the mix right between young and experienced players.
“We are still in with a chance of promotion and qualifying for the Division Two final and promotion would be great but the extra game would be good too as we look forward to the championship.”
Sunday’s game is in Fr Tierney Park, the same venue where Neil made his Donegal debut all of fourteen years ago.
“My first senior game was in Ballyshannon against Fermanagh in a McKenna Cup game. Brian McEniff was the manager and I was still at school in the Pobalscoil at the time.
“But I didn’t play my first championship game until the following year against Down. Brian McIvor was the manager.”
In the intervening years Neil has amassed an impressive array of medals and honours including one All-Ireland Celtic Cross 2012, a National League medal in 2007 and four
Ulster senior championship medals in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2018.
“I’ve had a very good run and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I was lucky too I have been relatively injury free in all that time and I didn’t miss many games.
“I missed a few league games and over the 12 years since I made my championship debut I only missed three championship games in total in all that time too.
“I missed last year’s Ulster final and two games in the 2016 championship, both against Monaghan, in the semi-final and the replay. I was suspended for the three of them.”
Neil missed this year’s Dr McKenna Cup and the early games in the National League due to his club Gaoth Dobhair’s great run in the club championship to the All-Ireland semi-final and defeat by Corofin.
The 2012 All-Ireland triumph and the win over Mayo in the final has been unquestionably the highlight of Neil’s career to date.
But when it comes to his most memorable and most enjoyable game the All-Ireland
semi-final win over Cork, on the way to the 2012 final, ranks as number one.
“Yeah, the All-Ireland was the highlight and it was brilliant to be part of it. But the semi-final against Cork was a great game. It was a great game to play in.
“It had everything, fast open football and some brilliant scores. We scored 16 points and Cork hit 1-11.
“It was score for score in the first half and we were level five or six times in the first half and we were a point up at half-time.
“We pulled away in the second half and led by five points before they scored a late goal and we had something like nine different scorers. It was brilliant at the finish to have qualified for the All-Ireland final.”
The top of the Division Two table is pretty congested going into this weekend’s final round of games. Meath top the table on 10 points, Fermanagh are in second place and Donegal are in third place, both on eight points. Kildare are in fourth place, one point further back on seven points. The four teams are in with a chance of qualifying for the Division Two final and promotion.
Much will hinge on how the Meath, Fermanagh game pans out in Navan. But Donegal need at least a draw and could possibly need a win against Kildare to qualify for the final and promotion.
“It is pretty tight at the top and we won’t have it easy against Kildare. We were very lucky to beat them last year also in Ballyshannon. They scored three goals and we only won by a couple of points.
“But it would be important in terms of promotion and also it would give us an extra quality game before the championship,” said McGee.