Neil McGee is set to break the record for all-time appearances by a Donegal footballer tomorrow evening at Croke Park.
Donegal’s Allianz League Division 2 final against Meath is set to represent McGee’s 174th time to play for the county.
McGee equaled Colm McFadden’s record of 173 when he replaced Brendan McCole for the last 13 minutes of the win over Kildare in Ballyshannon on Sunday.
Now, the Gaoth Dobhair full-back – whose 66 Senior Football Championship appearances is already a record – will go to the top of the list with his next game.
McGee first played for Donegal in the 2005 Dr McKenna Cup. A three-time All-Star, McGee won the All-Ireland in 2012 and has also won four Ulster SFC titles.
Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager, has hailed the impact of Donegal’s All-Ireland winners.
Last Sunday, McGee, Paddy McGrath, Leo McLoone, Michael Murphy and Frank McGlynn all played against Kildare. Patrick McBrearty is closing in on a return from injury while Paul Durcan’s recent recall has also added a significant lift.
“It’s the attitude of them and what they contribute on the training ground,” Bonner said.
“The last four or five weeks, there has been a surge in the quality and the intensity of training. That’s been brought by those guys.
“That is so important for us. It’s great for the young lads to see that and to train alongside that. It’s a building process and we are moving in the right direction.”
Bonner mentioned how Oisin Gallen, for instance, was ‘just a 10 or 11-year-old boy’ when Donegal won the All-Ireland seven years ago.
Bonner said: “Every one of those guys are leaders – and the rest of the players look up to them.
“It’s great to have them on the pitch. We didn’t panic with them around and we chipped away at scores, especially in the second half against Cork.”
Although the likes of Mark McHugh and Anthony Thompson have stepped off the carousel in recent months, Bonner insists that those who remain from the Jim McGuinness golden era are as driven as ever.
He said: “They want to be there and they don’t just want to be there to make up numbers. They want to be in the first 15. They want to be winning. That drives everyone else on within the group. They set the standards.”
Neil McGee – By Fr Seán
Dún na nGall record