Monthly Review

Donegal Sports Star Awards February 2018 review
There was no shortage of sporting success for Donegal in February with big achievements in GAA, swimming, triathlon, soccer, darts, horseracing, endurance cycling, athletics and snooker. On the last weekend of the month Ramelton man Paddy Bond took a gold and silver at the International Ice Swimming Association GB Championships in Leeds. Paddy was first in the M35-39 1k swim category and second overall in the 50 Fly.

On the first day of February, Laura Dugera scored twice as Mulroy College Milford retained their FAIS Senior ‘B’ National Girls title after a 2-0 win over Midleton College from Cork. One of their students who had to miss out on that success was Swilly Rovers player Catherine Grier who scored for English club Doncaster in the semi finals of the Champions League Deaf Futsal. However, it was to end in disappointment for the Ramelton girls as they lost out to 7-5 to Polish outfit Warsaw in a remarkable game.

In darts Donegal did the treble at the West Coast Challenge in Castlebar with their senior men and women taking titles along with the youth team. It was a fabulous February for Trentagh native Martin Harley who first rode Thaqaffa to victory for the third time in 2018 as he steered the Amy Murphy-trained five-year-old to a win at Kempton Park in the Matchbook Casino Handicap. A couple of days later he followed that up by steering Author’s Dream to victory in the Betway Casino Handicap at Lingfield Park. Next up Harley rode Inn The Bull to victory at Wolverhampton. Harley took the win on the 3/1 shot, trained by Alan King, in the Betway Casino Handicap.

On the last Monday of the month Harley super start in the saddle continued at Wolverhampton on as the Trentagh man completed a spectacular treble to bring him past the 20- winner mark for the season. His first win was on the 11/10 favourite Ty Rock Brandy for trainer Lee Smyth. Harley’s second win was on another favourite Inn The Bull at 6/4 for trainer Alan King. Rae Guest’s Midnightly completed the treble which came home at 12/1.

Letterkenny man Jason Black completed the mammoth 1,000km cycle race in the Middle East. The incredibly challenging event took place in Oman and was Black’s first attempt at a solo unsupported race.

At the beginning of February in athletics Finn Valley AC’s Dempsey McGuigan set a new Donegal record in the hammer throw, as well as a new PB and University Best in Illionois, USA. McGuigan threw the 35lb weight a distance of 21.22m. Nationally Karl Griffin returned from injury to win the 800m at the Athletics Ireland Indoor Championships in Abbottstown in a time of 1.50.31. A couple of weeks later Griffin was back on the podium as runner-up to fellow Donegal man Mark English in the 800m Final at the National Indoors in Abbottstown. Finn Valley’s John Kelly took silver in the Shot Putt while club colleague Sommer Lecky won the High Jump title. Letterkenny AC’s Danny Mooney won the 1,500m event at the Athletics Ireland Indoor Championships in Abbottstown in a time of 3.51.71.

On the first Saturday in February another Letterkenny AC member Nakita Burke continued her fine winter form finishing second overall in the Omagh 5k and first woman home in a time of 17.36.
Burke’s success continued six days later as she finished second at the National Intermediate Championships in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway. The Donegal Ladies took bronze in the Inter-County race while Letterkenny AC were runners-up in the O35 team event.

Finn Valley’s Sommer Lecky won the High Jump at the IFAM International event in Belgium, clearing 1.86m in her first attempt to take the title. Letterkenny AC’s Catriona Jennings broke her own Irish record as she won the National 50k Championship title in Kildare. Amy Greene of Rosses AC won the Girls U15 event at the Irish Intermediate, Masters and Juvenile Cross-Country Championships in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway.

Meanwhile, Mark English had to settle for second place in an 800m race during the AIT Grand Prix in Athlone. The Letterkenny man’s time was 1.47.48 just behind Spaniard Kevin Lopez (1.47.43).

On the last weekend of the month Letterkenny 24/7 member Christine Russell was third female home overall at the Naas Duathlon in a time of 1.03.23. It also gave her second place in the Intervarsity Championship representing NUI Galway. Fellow Letterkenny 24/7 member Orlaith Fogarty was first in the 20-24 age category and 19th overall female in Naas.

In rugby Ballybofey’s Laura Feely made her competitive Ireland debut as last sub but it ended in defeat 24-0 to France at the Stade Ernest Wallon. Feely also made a couple of more appearances from the bench.

Ardara’s Ronan Whyte fine run in the European Individual U18 Championships in Bulgaria came to an end at the last 16 stage of the competition when he lost 3-0 to England’s Sean McAllister. Then in Carlow, Ronan lost 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the qualifiers for the World U18 Championships. His North West Snooker Club colleague Sean Devenney lost out in the final 3-1.

In the middle of February Donegal were crowned McKenna Cup champions after a well deserved 1-16 to 1-12 win over Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh with the help of a first half Martin McElhinney goal. Three Cian Mulligan goals helped Gweedore to take the Ulster U21 Club Championship title after a big win over Lavey on a score of 4-7 to 0-6. It was the first time for a Donegal club to win the title.

History was made at the Garvaghy Centre of Excellence when Coaliste Ailigh Letterkenny won a senior schools GAA title for the first time ever after defeating Ballybay Community School from Monaghan by 3-12 to 2-10 in the final.

There was success for the Glenfin Club at the Ulster Juvenile Championships held in Saval, Co. Down. In the Girls U13 Doubles there was victory for Aibhe McMenamin and Katelyn Houston while Caoimhe McGlynn was runner up in the U15 Singles Final. In the U17 Boys Singles Odhran McGlynn was crowned Ulster champion.

On the last Saturday in February LYIT Donegal basketball men’s team put themselves in the frame for a league play-off place after a 108-81 win over the Galway Titans

In boxing there was a quarter-final defeat for Dungloe B.C.’s Matthew McCole at the Irish Elite Championship Finals at the National Stadium going down 5-0 to Wayne Kelly of Portlaoise in the 64kgs category.

Donegal’s poor start to the Division 1 league campaign continued as Declan Bonner’s men went down by a point in Division this time to Galway at the O’Donnell Park (1-12 to 0-14). Six days later and despite a gallant performance Donegal suffered their third successive loss in the league this time to Dublin Croke Park (0-20 to 0-15). However on the last Sunday in February the first league points were finally secured but it was a struggle against a Kildare side that played with 14 men from the 15th minute at Fr. Tierney Park in Ballyshannon (1-15 to 3-7).

After the opening round defeat to Dublin it was a late Yvonne Bonner free that got the Donegal ladies 1-13 Galway 0-16 draw against Galway in a Division 1 game in Glenfin. The side managed by Maxi Curran and Damian Devaney did a demolition job on Westmeath in a rearranged Division 1 league fixture played in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh. Donegal won by 9-17 to 1-5 with Yvonne Bonner scoring 3-6. The Ladies virtually made sure of their Division 1 status for next season after a 1-7 to 1-4 win over Monaghan in Clones.

Mya Alcorn (Loreto Convent Letterkenny), Shannon McLaughlin (Coaliste Ailigh Letterkenny) and Sarah Harkin (St. Columba’s Comprehensive, Glenties) were presented with Ulster Colleges All-Star Awards in Kellys Inn, Garvaghey.

The Donegal senior hurlers made history at the O’Donnell Park by defeating Down for first time ever by 0-17 to 0-14 in Division 2B.

At the start of the month there was huge morale boosting 14-point win for Donegal in Division 2B of the National Hurling League. Mickey McCann’s men defeated Derry by 4-17 to 2-09 at the O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny. Donegal came back all guns blazing after losing to Mayo in the league opener the previous week with the goals coming from David Coulter with two, Bernard Lafferty and Ronan McDermott while Lee Henderson scored six points. But that was followed by a 2-21 to 0-21 loss to Wicklow in Aughrim.

There was a good weekend for Donegal motorsport at the Birr Stages Rally where Donagh Kelly and Conor Foley were second in their Ford Fiesta WRC with Declan Boyle and Conor O’Reilly third also in a Ford Fiesta WRC while Joseph McGonagle and Ciaran Geaney finished fourth in their BMW Mini WRC.

Former Letterkenny underage rugby player Justin Allen is really looking forward to huge career move in the USA. The 22-year-old signed a two-year professional contract with the Houston SaberCats Club in the USA at Christmas time. The 6’11’, 250-pound lock is in training now for the inaugural 2018 Major League Rugby season.

Inishowen man Georgie Kelly helped UCD to win the Collingwood Cup final. Kelly had scored in the 2-0 semi-final win over DCU having netted twice in the 3-0 victory over Maynooth.

In the middle of the month Gweedore’s Marc Walsh started for the Republic of Ireland U17s in a 1-1 friendly draw against Turkey at Eamonn Deacy Park in Galway. Walsh is on the books of English Premiership side Swansea City.

Barry McNamee scored the very first goal of the new League of Ireland Premier Division season when he put Cork City ahead in the third minute against St Patrick’s Athletic at Inchicore on Friday night. The Ramelton man had also scored in the President’s Cup Final the previous weekend. Cork won Friday night’s game 3-2.

Letterkenny Rovers U15s secured their place in the SFAI National Cup quarter finals after a well deserved 1-0 win over Mervue Utd in a scrappy encounter at the Aura Centre with Sean McVeigh getting the goal just before the interval.

Despite losing 2-0 to group toppers Mayo the Donegal Youth League qualified as runners-up for the knockout stages of the FAI Inter-League competition. On the last Sunday in February and for the second time in three years Letterkenny booked their place in the semi-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup after Darren McElwaine’s brace gave Eamonn McConigley’s side a 2-0 win over Dublin outfit Home Farm at Leckview Park.

The Carndonagh team took silver at the British and Irish Tug-o-war Championships in Enniskillen in the 620kg category.

At the start of February, Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny had a 5-2 win over Crana College, Buncrana at Whitestrand to win the Ulster Junior B Girls Final. It was a fine performance from Keith Cowan’s side. There was an Ulster double for Moville Community School who won both the Senior and U17 FAI Schools provincial soccer titles.
Donegal Sports Star Awards January 2018 review
Magical month for martial arts
The Donegal Sports Star Awards January review reveals super start to the new year for the county at national and international level. It was an especially good month for martial arts where the three men won gold medals at the European Jiu Jitsu Games in Lisbon. Two Carrigart men got on to the podium with Paul McHugh and Liam McBride winning gold medals in the novice section. Convoy’s TJ McMenamin claimed a gold in the Blue Belt Masters Division in Portugal while Emma Dolan from the Three Rivers Shotokan Club was a brilliant second at the Ishoj Karate Cup in Copenhagen.

Danny Ryan continued where he left off last year winning two gold medals at the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships at the UL Sports Arena on the University of Limerick campus. The former Irish boxing champion was first in the 2 km 40-49 age-group and then won the 500m Open Men category. And Ryan also achieved a new Irish record in the 40-49 age category in the 500m event.

January was also good for darts with Buncrana man Sean Wilson winning the Irish National Organisation’s singles title. He defeated Michael Meeney of Kilkenny 3-2 in the final and Sean qualified to play in the British Darts Organisation tournament, the Winmau World Masters and also the Lakeside World Championship Qualifiers. There was also a big snooker success for the CYMS Letterkenny team who were crowned All-Ireland champions. The team included Gareth Kirwan, Phelim McClafferty, Adrian McFadden, Chris Dolan and Chris Gibbons.

Motorsport crew Manus Kelly and Donal Barrett will forever remember Friday the 26th of January when they were crowned Overall winners at the Donegal Sports Star Awards after their superb success in retaining the Donegal International Rally event last June. Kilmacrennan’s Richard Kerr won the ‘Young Rider of the Year’ at the Motorbike Awards in Bangor. The awards recognize the achievements of Ireland’s top riders at home and abroad. Kerr also confirmed that he will switch to the Dickies British Supersport class for the new motorcycling season and will ride on the Campbell Motor Sport Triumph Daytona 675R. The 17-year-old had been competing in the MotoStar British Championship Moto 3 class over the past three years.
For the second successive year Mulroy College Milford were crowned All-Ireland Senior ‘B’ Girls champions after a great 2-0 win against Cork side Midleton at the Home Farm grounds in Dublin. Laura Dugera was the star of the show as her two goals secured the title for Maria Ryan’s side. There was big news for young Letterkenny lad Shane Blaney who made the move from Finn Harps to Doncaster Rovers.

Staying with soccer St. Johnston’s Tyler Toland played the full game as the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team defeated Portugal 3-1 in an international friendly. Greencastle’s Roma McLaughlin came on as a late sub while also in the Irish squad were Milford’s Amber Barrett and Amy Boyle-Carr from Glenties. Toland and Barrett had both played on the previous Thursday when the ROI women lost 1-0. Then after returning home from Portugal McLaughlin was named ‘Player of the Tournament’ as IT Carlow won their third successive CUFL Women’s Futsal Cup at the WIT Arena. McLaughlin fired home four goals in the three games on the way to Carlow lifting the national title.

January was good for Trentagh jockey Martin Harley who had winners on Author’s Dream at the Betway Stayers Handicap at Lingfield and then at Kempton Park on the 11/2 backed Thaqaffa in the 32Red Casino Handicap.

In athletics the good form of Letterkenny AC’s Karol Duggan continued as he finished 20th at the IAAF Antrim International Cross-Country Championships. Meanwhile, two other young LAC athletes Matthew Johnston and Donal Farren were members of the Ulster U20 team in Antrim while Glenswilly lad Sean McGinley, a member of the Derry Olympian Club was on the province’s U17 team. And Donegal representation was completed by Teresa McDaid of LAC who was manager of the Irish team while Finn Valley’s Neil Martin was in the charge of the U17s. Farren and McGinley were also selected to run for the Ulster and Northern Ireland team at the UK Inter-Counties Cross-Country Championships, which take place at Loughborough in March. Letterkenny AC’s Fionnuala Diver was second in the O35 category and the LAC men’s team took gold at the Northern Ireland and Ulster Cross-Country Championships in Belfast. Letterkenny AC’s Ann-Marie McGlynn won the five mile Raheny 5 in a time of 26.44.

At the start of January there was big news for Finn Valley AC athletes Sommer Lecky and Dempsey McGuigan who were both included in the Northern Ireland team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which takes place on the Gold Coast in Australia from April 4th to 15th. Dempsey and his brother Fellan were at different venues at Collegiate meetings in the USA during the month throwing the heavy hammer. Dempsey was in action with the 16lb ball and reached out to over 20m at Vanderbilt meet in Nashville and the throw was close to his PB and Donegal best. It also moved him to 17th in the collegiate rankings in the USA. Meanwhile, Fellas McGuigan was out over 15m with his throw.

Raphoe badminton player Rachael Darragh was also included in the Northern Ireland team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia while in basketball there was disappointment for St. Eunan’s College who suffered defeat 44-32 to Colaiste Chiarain from Kildare in the All-Ireland U16 Schools Basketball Final in Dublin.

Letterkenny boxer Stephen McMonagle was also included on the Northern Ireland boxing team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Super-Heavyweight division. Staying in the ring Dungloe’s Matthew McCole secured a place in the Light-Welterweight Final at the National U22 Championships in Dublin after defeating Aaron Daly from Castlebar on a split decision to move into the decider. Near the end of January Labhaoise Clarke just missed out on a 10th All-Ireland title after losing on a split decision to Shauna Blaney at Dublin’s National Stadium.

There was great news for two young St Johnston players Scott Macbeth and Harry Pearson who were included on an Ireland U13 squad for Cricket Ireland’s Cubs Winter Training Programme. At the start of the month Declan Bonner’s first competitive game of his second spell as Donegal senior football team manager got off to an easy start with a 2-15 to 0-6 win over Queen’s University Belfast in Ballybofey in the McKenna Cup opener. But, a week later ex-Donegal manager Rory Gallagher had satisfaction of putting one over on his former team in Ballybofey as his Fermanagh side defeated the hosts 1-13 to 1-10 in the second McKenna Cup group game. In the final group game the return of Kilcar men Ryan McHugh and Paddy McBrearty helped Donegal book a place in the McKenna Cup semi-finals thanks to a 10-point win over Monaghan in Clones (4-19 to 0-19).
Bonner’s men then had a comfortable seven-point win over Armagh in the Dr. McKenna Cup semi-final in Celtic Park, Derry thanks to a strong second half performance with Paddy McBrearty scoring eight-points (0-20 to 1-10). 14-men Donegal went down by just a single point to Kerry in an NFL Division 1 opener in Killarney (2-18 to 3-14). Bonner’s side who played from the 20th minute with 14 players following the straight red card received by Nathan Mullins led by a point in the dying minutes but the hosts came back to snatch victory.

Naomh Colmcille hopes of a big day out at Croke Park were dashed by Cork side Knocknagree who had a 2-9 to 0-7 win over the Newtowncunningham outfit in the All-Ireland Junior Football semi-final. On the last Sunday in January and despite a pretty encouraging performance the Donegal Ladies suffered a four-point (2-5 to 0-7) defeat to All-Ireland champions Dublin at the O’Donnell Park in their opening National Football League Division 1 game.

On the first day of January and for the second successive year Raphoe Hockey Club suffered defeat in the Linden Cup Final this time losing out 5-0 to Bangor in Belfast. Setanta’s brilliant run in the All-Ireland series came to an end when the Killygordon outfit lost 4-12 to 0-13 to Ardmore from Waterford in the semi-final in Navan. Letterkenny lad Joe Dunleavy was named for the first time in the Ireland U-20 squad for the international Six Nations Championship.

It was a memorable month for Ramelton’s Catherine Grier who played her part as the Irish Deaf Sports Futsal team secured qualification for the European Finals in Finland after a 6-2 win over Italy in the Netherlands.
Swilly Rovers midfielder Grier played a key role and scored in opening 3-3 draw with hosts Holland. The Mulroy College Milford student’s performance earned her the Player of the Match accolade award. However, Grier’s participation in the weekend qualifiers was then cut short after sustaining an ankle injury in the game against Germany on Saturday morning.

Seamus Coleman returned to competitive action with the Everton U23s, ten months after suffering a terrible double leg fracture. The Killybegs native played just short of an hour as the Toffees defeated Portsmouth in the Premier League Cup.
On the last Friday of January

Carndonagh CS won the Ulster Senior Schools title for the third-year in a row after defeating St. Columba’s College Stranorlar 1-0 in Traighalough thanks to a second half Corey McBride goal.
The Scoil Mhurie Buncrana U15 girls clinched the FAI Schools Minor Ulster Cup title after a 4-1 victory over Carndonagh C.S.
And Moville Community School secured their place in the All-Ireland Schools Senior Soccer Final after a 3-2 win over Enniscorthy’s Coalise Bride.

In secondary schools GAA, St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny reached the semi-finals of the Ulster McLarnon Cup after an easy 1-16 to 1-4 win over Loreto College, Colraine in Owenbeg.

For further details on the Donegal Sports Star Awards go to on Facebook at Donegalsport Starawards or on twitter at DL Sportstars.