September proved to be another very good month for Donegal sport with plenty of sporting successes for the county to cheer about in athletics, badminton, boxing, cricket, hurling, motorsport, soccer, triathlon and surfing.
Many of those who hit the headlines during September will be expected to feature among the nominees for individual and team honours at the 2014 Donegal Sports Star Awards at the end of January. Mark English rounded of the best season of his young career by finishing fourth in an 800m race at the Continental Cup in Morocco in a time of 1:45:74. English was representing Team Europe in a world top class field, which was won by Botswana’s Nigel Amos the silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
There was Donegal success at the European Badminton Circuit event in Dublin. Raphoe’s Rachael Darragh and her partner Paul Reynolds won the mixed doubles. In the Irish Open U15 there was silver for Kyle McGee (Raphoe) in the singles. Kyle also won gold in the mixed doubles along with his partner Clogagh Dunne.
In her first international event outside Ireland Rachael Darragh and her partner Sara Boyle were defeated at the quarter-final stage of the Polish Open after winning their first round game. And there was family success at the Irish Autumn Open Raphoe’s as Rachel’s uncle Joshua McGee first won the Men Singles Final and then went onto also take the Men’s Doubles title.
At the end of September Lagan Harps Ladies won the FAI Junior Cup with a big 8-1 win over Tipperary Town. Despite playing the final in Tipperary the Manor side, managed by Brid McGinty, were far too strong for their opponents with Amber Barrett, Nikita Burke and Lauren Harper each scoring twice in the decider. At the start of the month the Lagan ladies had won the Arena 7 Donegal Women’s League Shield with a 5-1 win over Bonagee Utd at Leckview Park with the help of hat-trick from Harper.
However in the Ulster senior women’s final Lagan lost 3-2 to Greencastle FC who completed a treble having previously landed the Inishowen League and Foyle Cup trophies. More good news for Lagan came as Zoe McGlynn from Raphoe won her first international cap for the Republic of Ireland U17s coming on as a sub in a 1-0 win over Denmark in a friendly played in Dublin.
The fine form of Letterkenny 24/7 Club’s Aidan Callaghan continued as he finished second at the Olympic Triathlon in Belmullet, Co. Mayo. Callaghan who was the 2012 Donegal Sports Star Award Triathlon winner is currently the second ranked triathlete in the country within the national series rankings of Triathlon Ireland. On the international front Letterkenny’s Triona McMenamin won two bronze medals, representing Ireland, at the World Surf Rescue Championships in France.
Donegal’s Declan and Brian Boyle were victorious in the Clare Stages Rally in their Subaru WRC S21B to keep alive their hopes of retaining the National Rally Championship title. And there were celebrations for the St. Johnston Cricket Club who returned to the Premiership of the North West League on a day of high drama. Early in the day St. Johnston defeated Bonds Glen but had to wait until later to learn whether they were promoted. News that Burndennett had lost to Drummmond to confirmed their place in the Premiership.
The current Donegal Sports Star ‘Best Secondary School Girl’ award holder Loreto Convent Letterkenny’s Arlene student won the Ulster Schools Combined Events title at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast. It included three personal bests in the Hurdles 12.2; High Jump 1.61m, Shot 8.94 while she had a Long Jump of 5.38m. At the start of the month Letterkenny’s Darren Mangan won his first professional fight in a unanimous points decision against Kashif Muammad-Brown at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in New York City. There was no surprise when Jason Quigley won the ‘Best Senior Boxer’ for the second successive year at the annual Donegal Boxing Awards held at the Abbey Hotel in Donegal Town while Michael Gallagher his Finn Valley BC colleague Michael Gallagher took the ‘Best Junior Boxer’ honour. Letterkenny’s Philip Deignan, riding for Team Sky finished 39th overall in the Vuelta Espana in Spain. Deignan was also a member of the Irish team that took part in a World Championship event. It was a good start to September for Donegal GAA as Ryan McHugh was named ‘Ulster Player of the Year’ at the provincial All-Star Awards in Armagh. The Kilcar man was also one of six players named on the Ulster All Stars team along with Neil McGee, Karl Lacey, Leo McLoone, Odhran MacNiallais and skipper Michael Murphy. Neil Gallagher followed that up by winning the August Ulster GAA Writers Merit Award for his two outstanding performances in the quarter-final and semi-final wins over Armagh and Dublin.
But on Sunday 21st September there was double heartbreak for Donegal GAA when both the Seniors and Minors lost their respective All-Ireland Finals to Kerry at Croke Park. Despite an improved second half performance Declan Bonner’s boys still lost by four points to the Kingdom. In the senior decider Jim McGuinness’s struggled to get out of the starting blocks and found themselves 1-1 down after just three minutes.
Gradually with the help of three Michael Murphy frees Donegal got back into the contest and were level at half-time. Captain Murphy put his side in front just after the restart but it was to be the only time in the final that Kerry were behind. Donegal had their best spell of the game after keeper Paul Durcan gifted Ciaran Donaghy a goal that put his side four in front. That lead was to cut to one point but that was as close as the Ulster champions got with Kerry eventually winning by a goal.
Termon Ladies won the Donegal Senior Football Championship title for the fourth time in five years by hammering Glenfin 4-18 to 1-11 in the final in Convoy. ‘Player of the Match’ Geraldine McLaughlin scored 4-10 in the decider as Termon completed the three-in-a-row. On the same day Carndonagh won the County Junior Football Championship with a 4-17 to 3-5 win over Buncrana in Convoy.
It was a good month for the Letterkenny Gaels Club as first one of their former player Aaron Bradley completed the double with Tirconaill Gaels by helping them to London Senior League title thanks to a one point win over Fullham Irish at Ruislip. And the Club itself created their own little bit of history by winning an adult league title for the first time by taking the Division 4 title.
At underage level St. Eunan’s retained the Ulster Og Sport title defeating Killeavy from Armagh by a point in the final at the O’Donnell Park. In the middle of September the Dungloe senior side returned to Division 1 of the All-County League clinching promotion with a 3-13 to 2-9 home win over Bundoran. Meanwhile, Ardara were crowned Donegal Junior B Champions following an easy 2-11 to 0-3 victory over Glenswilly in Donegal Town.
At the end of the month Burt won the Donegal Senior Hurling Championship title for the fourth successive year with a big 15-point victory over McCumhaills in the final played at the O’Donnell Park.
In Martial Arts Letterkenny man Brian Crossan defeated Michael McCrossan in Strabane to become the undisputed holder of the Irish World Kickboxing Union and Irish World Kickboxing Association 79kgs titles while Finn Valley’s Sharon Heapes was a member of the Ulster Women’s Rugby team who played in the inter-provincial campaign.
There was a bit of a boost for soccer in the county as Finn Harps reached the last four of the FAI Senior Cup following a 4-1 victory over non-league side Avondale Utd in a replay in Ballybofey.
Ollie Horgan’s side had been held to a 1-1 draw by Avondale in Cork. But, there was a downside with the news that Harps got the worst possible draw for the semi-final away to top Premier side St. Patrick’s Athletic. Apart from the somewhat surprise 3-2 home win over promotion challengers Shelbourne it wasn’t a good September for Harps who suffered a 1-0 defeat against First Division strugglers Cobh Ramblers at St. Colman’s Park followed by their heaviest loss of the season going down 3-0 to Galway FC at Terryland Park. And it was another 3-0 defeat right at the end of the month as Horgan was forced to take an under strength team away to Wexford Youths.
Going back to the FAI Senior Cup semi-finals it was also an away game for Donegal’s representatives on the Derry City team Barry McNamee and Sean Houston who drew Shamrock Rovers at the Tallaght Stadium. McNamee and Houston had helped Derry secure a place in the semi-finals thanks to a 5-0 win over Drogheda Utd in a replay at the Brandywell.
A Caoimhe Barrett goal gave Fanad Utd a 1-0 win over Lagan Harps U-18s in the Women’s Glencar Inn Cup Final.
Letterkenny’s Chris Flanagan (Derry City) and Cockhill’s Harry Doherty (Brighton) both featured for the Republic of Ireland U-19s in a 1-0 international friendly win over the Netherlands at Tallaght Stadium.
There was a double for Inishowen women’s football in two Ulster Cup Finals at Ballyare. First the Moville Celtic U-14s defeated Glenree Utd in a sudden death penalty shoot-out after the game had ended scoreless. And that was followed by the Greencastle victory over Lagan in the senior final. Greencastle’s Roma McLaughlin and Milford’s Amber Barrett both featured for the Republic of Ireland’s U-19 side in the UEFA European Women’s Championship group games in Sweden.
It was with great sadness that Donegal soccer followers learned of the death of the legendary Hugh ‘Dick’ Doherty at the end of month. Only last January the Buncrana man was the Hall of Fame winner at the Donegal Sports Star Awards a fitting tribute to his lifelong service to soccer. It started as a very talented player for Derry City and Dundalk before transferring to Glasgow Celtic and then to Blackpool. When he returned home Hugh became a highly regarded administrator locally in Inishowen and the USL while on the national stage he was a member of the FAI Junior Council.
In tennis the Donegal team of Anne McGrath, Drew Chambers, Jane Watt, Paul Bannigan, Francis Venzon, Robert Thompson, Chemey Lanz and Mary Barry won the Quadrangular Tennis Tournament involving Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh at the Omagh Tennis Club. For further information on the Donegal Sports Star Awards go to the website donegalsportsstarawards.ie or on Facebook at Donegalsports Starawards.