“It felt as though the whole of Donegal was in Croke Park”

FORMER Donegal star Martin McElhinney looks back at some of the big moments from his player career and games he has watched down the years…

Name: Martin McElhinney

Teams played for: Naomh Micheal, Donegal, DCU, Queens University.

Current involvement: Still playing with my club Naomh Michael, managing our u-14 team too.

Which club game, that you played in, will you never forget and why?

2011 Donegal senior county final – Our first ever county final and unfortunately it ended in defeat. We led for the majority of the game, until Michael Murphy took over the game in the last 10 minutes and scored 1-2. It is always one that sticks out in my mind.

Which club game, that you watched, will you never forget and why?

2004 All-Ireland intermediate final. My club was in it and played Glen Rovers from Cork in the final. I just always remember the build-up, there were old cars painted red and white in the town. I remember all the buses leaving together making their way to Portmarnock where the final was played. I always remember the buzz around the ground that morning and everyone from our parish up in Dublin. Unfortunately I remember us missing a penalty early in the game and the disappointment of getting beaten. The players on the that team were all heroes of mine and still are. I was very fortunate then to make my senior debut the following year and get to play with them all.

Which county game, that you played in, will you never forget and why?

It’s obviously the 2012 All-Ireland final. I remember running out for the game and just not being able to hear anything that my teammates etc were saying. The crowd were just going wild from the get go. It felt as though the whole of Donegal was in Croke Park that day. I couldn’t believe how quickly the game went by. The feeling then of hearing the final whistle and realising we had won is just a feeling I will never forget. I remember the Hills of Donegal blasting, and doing a lap of the pitch seeing all the Donegal supporters was just mad. Definitely the highlight of my footballing career.

Which county game, that you watched, will you never forget and why?

The 2002 All-Ireland quarter-final when Donegal drew with Dublin in Croke Park. I just always remember Adrian Sweeney fisting the point over the bar in injury time to level the game and doing a celebration to Hill 16 silencing all the Dublin supporters. It was my first real experience of a Donegal crowd going mad in Croke Park.

What was the funniest thing you ever saw in a game?

I remember playing a club game against a neighbouring club team. I was playing midfield and the boy marking me had a brother playing wing-forward. We kept going for kick-outs and the wing-forward kept coming and jumping in front of us. After about six or seven times of him doing this, next thing I know his brother clocked him and said “stop ****ing getting in the way!”

What was the strangest thing you ever saw in a game?

I was at a club game when I was younger, one of our club players got a straight red for throwing sand in the opponent’s face. At the back of our club pitch there is a river. The player then went in to the referee’s changing room and threw the referee’s bag into the river.

What was the most memorable performance from a player in a game that you watched?

Some of the performances James McCarthy has put in for Dublin have been unreal. He is some player. Pace, power and aggression.

What was the most memorable performance from a player in a game that you played?

Neil Gallagher against Cork in 2012. It was the first game he started that year and he put in one of the best performances I ever saw. Cork had two very big men in midfield at the time in Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor but none of them could get near him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other midfielders field as many balls in one game.

What did you love about the games you played in?

Football is way more than just game-day. You often don’t remember the matches that much, it’s the dressing room banter, meeting the lads a few times a week at training and game day. Getting to meet other players throughout the county and country.

What did you hate about the games you played in?

Nothing – any day you get to put on the boots and go out and play matches you should be thankful and I hope to do it for as long as I can.

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