When Mark Anthony McGinley returned to Donegal after leaving UCD in 2014, Finn Harps seemed a natural fit.
McGinley played for UCD in the League of Ireland having initially been at Belfield on a soccer scholarship.
When he went back to home in Ards almost three years ago now, McGinley was snapped up by Harps manager Ollie Horgan, who had mentored the young McGinley at Fanad United. An injury meant that he wouldn’t represent the Harps senior team and by the time the 2015 League of Ireland campaign had come around, McGinley was already in Rory Gallagher’s Donegal squad.
He spent 2015 kicking his heels, but re-learning a trade he’d spent five years away from and last year he became Donegal’s new number 1.
It has been some rise.
“Rory asked me to come up and when I got the offer I jumped at the chance to be involved in this,” says the 27-year-old teacher.
“It is a privilege to be able to play senior inter-county football. Last year before the Fermanangh game the feeling going up in the bus was just one of immense pride.
“You see it at home, with the family, the locality that it is such a big thing to represent Donegal, to play for Donegal. It is such an honour and it is something I appreciate and something I would never take for granted. I am delighted with the way things are gone and hopefully that is how it will continue.
“I signed for Finn Harps in 2014 when I came back but I got injured and couldn’t play for them but I came back in time for the club championship with St Michael’s.
“I actually signed for them in 15 as well but once the call came from Rory and I got the taste for the set-up here I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
A quad injury sustained in the warm-up before what was due to be his debut last January, against Down in the McKenna Cup, delayed his Donegal bow, but it came in a League game against Dublin on the day of his 26th birthday.
Since then, he’s been Donegal’s ever-present and is only the 12th goalkeeper to have played Championship football for Donegal since 1956.
Stepping into the gloves of Paul Durcan hasn’t fazed him.
He says: “Filling Papa’s gloves is a big ask. His CV stands for itself: an All-Ireland winner, an All-Star so, look, all I can do is go in there and play my own game and you can’t get caught up on who you are actually replacing.
“It wasn’t something I got too worked up about, but then it is not in my nature to get worked up. Rory had a good chat with me and told me what I wanted and I went and tried to do what he told me.”
McGinley missed a penalty for Donegal in the Buncrana Cup (U16) final in 2006, but isn’t short on confidence. He had trials at Cardiff City, West Brom and Leicester City as a youngster, but he’s loving life with Donegal now.
Whatever the sport, though, it is the silverware that he craves and the hurt of losing last year’s Ulster final to Tyrone is still there.
He says: “We were close last year and it was very disappointing not to get over the line – but that’s what drives you on and you’re up and down the road to Convoy when the rain and snow is battering the window. I am like every other man, I want to win as much as I can and it starts again with Antrim on Sunday. That’s the start of the road again.”