Donegal’s All-Ireland winning captain of 1992, Anthony Molloy, and Donegal County Board Chairman, Mick McGrath, have appealed for all Donegal people to lend their support to the Donegal Training Fund which was launched at the weekend in Dublin.
The launch, held on Saturday afternoon prior to Donegal’s Super 8 tie with Dublin at Croke Park, was attended by a number of county board officers and former Donegal players including Anthony Molloy, Brendan Devenney, Colm McFadden, Neil Gallagher, Martin Carney, Sean Ferriter, Pauric McShea and Michael McLoone. Former Donegal manager, Brian McEniff, was also in attendance.
In his address, the county chairman said back in May it was realised at county board level that there was a huge necessity to structure short-term and long-term strategic planning around fundraising.
“From that there was a fundraising committee structured. There was nobody rushing to chair it. As I was in the position of county board chairman, I decided I would take the task on. At least I’d have my finger on the pulse if I was involved,” he said.
“I’ve selected people rather than get people to voluntarily go on it. From the people that have been selected, we are asking those to recruit others. We are identifying the type of persons we are looking for, the skills that they’ve got and the contacts they’ve got in Donegal, in Dublin, in the rest of Ireland, in the UK and in America.
“We visited London at the beginning of May and on that note I’d like to welcome Seamus Carr, originally from the Naomh Columba, Glencolmcille area who has been resident in London for about 40 years. He has accepted an invitation from myself to assist four or five others to lead out on a fundraising group of people in the London area.
“He has just informed me today that there are around 40 Donegal people in London that are either directing companies, CEOs of companies, own companies or are in high positions within companies that have come on board over there. In the space of six or seven weeks we have taken in £20,000 sterling and hopefully that increases to a bigger amount before the year is out./
“We are going to give them the opportunity to feel part of what we are trying to achieve here and build the ‘brand Donegal’ on the field and off the field. They are extremely proud Donegal people and they want to be part of it.
“We’ve also set up a group of people within Donegal. We’ve met a few times over the last number of weeks and we are trying to structure within Donegal the same communication networking in the business community of Donegal. We are not excluding anybody.
“A week before the Ulster final I met with Anthony Molloy, a man who needs no introduction, and Anthony said he’d like to be part of what we are trying to put together. I was delighted to hear that. Anthony is well known for what he did for Donegal in the nineties.”
In relation to the centre of excellence at Convoy, the chairman said he has been pressing the development officer, David McLoone, for a date when the bulldozers will be moving in to start work on the project.
He said: “We have four pitches developed there out of five – we won’t be developing the fifth one yet. But we are going to start the project physically within the next month. We have, just this week, made an arrangement with a lending bank to fund us forward. We are in a good position with some grants that have been established by agencies we have approached, including Croke Park. We have a lot of fundraising to do to back all that up towards the goal we are trying to achieve. The building is costing us €2.1 million. It will be funded and it will be built..
“We want the word to go out there that we aren’t going to be sitting back waiting for others to do it, we are going to do it and we want your help to do it. We want your physical help and your thoughts. It’s going to take a huge amount of work and a bunch of very enthusiastic people have already joined,” he added.
“Our turnover last year was around €2 million and our building this year is going to bring that up to around €4 million. We’re not afraid of that. I’m certainly not afraid of that and I think we should take the challenge on. We shall not leave the team or the players wanting for anything. We’ll certainly not let them waste money, but we’ll certainly not have them looking for it either.”
Giving the Donegal Training Fund his full backing, Anthony Molloy recalled how he felt after guiding Donegal to All-Ireland glory back in 1992.
“Almost 26 years ago, I was given the great honour to go up the steps of the Hogan Stand and accept Sam Maguire on behalf of my team and my county for the very first time. That was the proudest moment of my life. It’s a day that will always remain with me and a day I’ll always remember. I’ll be eternally grateful for that day, eternally grateful to you, to my club and to my county for affording me that chance,” he said.
“Another moment equally as proud for me was when a young Michael Murphy went up the steps and accepted Sam Maguire as well.
“We had a photo taken years previously with himself and the Sam Maguire with me. People always ask me what it was like. I suppose for me, it was a moment of intense pride. It was an intense feeling of belonging and being part of something. Ultimately, it was a feeling of overwhelming joy – indescribable.
“I also appreciated and would be aware of the work done in my days playing by you through the eighties and nineties. We’re here today on that same journey to support the present and fantastic young team and to afford them the opportunity as well to realise their dreams,” he added.
“Back in 1992 I believe the cost of running all county teams was between £150,000 and £200,000. But we all know how things have moved on. We have a totally professional approach these days. In effect, a county player today has to put his life on hold to represent Donegal and his county. The running costs of running county teams today is in the region of €2 million euro.
“We’ve enjoyed a very fruitful period and I suppose it’s the most successful era in Donegal GAA since 2010. We’ve won the Anglo Celt four times and have missed out in one Ulster final in that period.
“The pinnacle, of course, was winning the Sam Maguire in 2012. I have absolutely no doubt with Declan Bonner at the helm of this present young team coming through, with some old heads still among them, that we can achieve greatness again.
“But we can only achieve greatness with everyone together and everybody on board. I’m here today as well to thank the good Donegal people in Dublin for their efforts to date. We are also looking at setting up a group in Dublin to help assist us with fundraising initiatives within the capital here.”
The former captain described the current captain, Michael Murphy, as “a gentleman” and “the most inspirational leader we’ve ever had.”
The Ardara clubman met up with the county captain for a coffee recently and they discussed a lot. The last thing they spoke about was the schedule for a typical week of a Donegal senior footballer. The former skipper broke down the hugely demanding schedule day by day.
Between early morning gym sessions, collective pitch training, hydration tests, video analysis, physio treatments and shooting practice, there wasn’t a lot of time left for much else.
“Is that not professional, or what?” the Ardara clubman asked.
“I think, from my own view and from being around, it’s time we all rowed in and that these boys don’t want for anything. Whatever they want, we have to have it there for them – no questions asked,” he insisted.
“People sit back in the Hogan Stand and think these lads have a great time. But they are professional sportsmen playing an amateur game. All I ask is that you spread the word and let people know we are all together. We want everybody together on this journey we’re facing. We leave here as a collective bunch of people with the one aim, and that is that out senior team in particular are very well looked after. Because they deserve it.”