Review of the year – Donegal

1 Murphy calls it day

AFTER 177 games at senior inter-county level, Donegal’s greatest ever footballer called it a day.

Donegal had won five Ulster titles and got their hands on Sam Maguire once before his career kicked off and he doubled it. That just sums up what he brought to the county.

The fact that Jim McGuinness saw enough in him to make him captain as he came out of the u-21 grade also spoke volumes.

After a season where Donegal fell short in Ulster, the news of Murphy’s retirement rocked the county who will begin 2023 under new management.

In his statement, Murphy said he was one of those all-in or not-in types and you have to respect that.

Also, how many players have stayed too long, until their best before date. Murphy stepped out while people wanted more.

What a player and what a servant.

2 Niamh reaches for the stars

FROM one Donegal great to another. What a season it was for Niamh McLaughlin who led Maxi Curran’s side at the top level of the game.

Despite not reaching the All-Ireland final and losing to Armagh in Ulster, McLaughlin was voted by her peers as the Senior Player of the Year. What an honour and is a reward for years of leadership, skill and persistence. Many players with three serious knee injuries would’ve packed it in. Niamh didn’t and was a worthy recipient.

With Curran back as manager and with Ciaran Smith taking over from Mark McHugh after his move to the Roscommon senior backroom, they will be keen to push on to the next level.

Smith, a former MacRory winner with St Michael’s, Enniskillen, coached Ballyshannon Ladies to the intermediate title and Erne Gaels – under manager Seamus Ryder – to the Fermanagh Senior League.

3 Progress, but no silver for Donegal’s hurlers

DONEGAL hurlers had a year of progress but had nothing to show for it in terms of silverware.

Under Mickey McCann, they won three games from three before falling to Derry. It left a semi-final as much as they could’ve expected.

They went down to Sligo, by a single point, after leading by six points at the break and remaining five ahead going into the closing stages before being reeled in.

It was a disappointing end to their promotion race and they also missed out in the Nickey Rackard final place after going down to eventual winners Tyrone in the last group game.

With Jamsie Donnelly on board as coach, they have plenty to be optimistic about ahead of a new season.

On the club front, Setanta shot their way back as senior champions before Declan Coulter and Davin Flynn led them to Ulster glory against Shane O’Neill’s of Glenarm.

Their season ended on a low with an exit to Kilburn Gaels in a late smash and grab after being without Flynn who was on holiday.

4 Carr the man to lead the new dawn

IT took time for Declan Bonner to eventually come to a decision, but once he stepped down as senior football manager the race for his replacement began.

The frontrunner was St Eunan’s manager and former Donegal star Rory Kavanagh, but that fizzled out before the cbounty oard unveiled Paddy Carr as manager.

Carr, with a decorated CV, has Aidan O’Rourke on board with Derry All-Star forward Paddy Bradley in the setup. Bernard Jackman was also joined as a performance analyst.

Carr was in place for the club championship and with another Division One campaign around the corner, they face the task of finding new leaders to step up to the place in the absence of Murphy.

5 Naomh Conaill are back on top

AFTER a winter licking the wounds of defeat from last year’s county final, Naomh Conaill are back at the top of the tree in the Senior Championship.

Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí commented before their Ulster Club campaign how much the margin of the defeat stung.

After a tough quarter-final test against Glenswilly, they were on the way back to the final.

On the day, it was the kicking of Brendan McDyer and Ciaran Thompson that lit up the final against 14-man St Eunan’s who had Shane O’Donnell sent off.

Martin Regan’s side looked to be on their way to an Ulster semi-final before Cargin pegged them back and they lost on penalties.

Dungloe and Letterkenny Gaels were the intermediate and junior champions, setting them up for a 2023 at a higher grade.

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