A TASTE of the glory days at Finn Park returned in November as Finn Harps returned to the Premier Division of the League of Ireland for the first time since 2008.
BY DECLAN KERR
The night of November 5 will go down as one of the most storied nights in the club’s history.
Ollie Horgan’s team trailed 1-0 to a goal by Killybegs man Shaun Kelly from the first leg against Limerick FC at the Markets Field. Finn Park was packed to capacity as an expectant crowd converged for the second leg.
Michael Funston’s goal levelled the tie and the contest was heading for penalties when a goal that goes down as one of Donegal sport’s most memorable ever moments arrived. Damien McNulty’s first cross was cut out, but the defender popped it straight back and BJ Banda wrote himself into folklore with a headed winner that sent Finn Park wild.
Monday the 16th of November is a date that Seamus Coleman won’t forget in a hurry as the Killybegs man and the other players with Donegal links ensured Republic of Ireland will be playing at the European Championships next summer after a 3-1 aggregate win over Bosnia at the Aviva Stadium on a wonderful night for Irish soccer. On the previous Friday the Irish had drawn 1-1 in Bosnia before securing qualification with that 2-0 victory in Dublin. That was one of the big highlights of the Donegal Sports Star Awards November review.
Also right up there was Letterkenny’s Mark English who was named Irish Under-23 Athlete of the Year at the annual AAI awards at the Crown Plaza in Santry while the bronze medallists from the Women’s Senior Team European Cross Country Championships captained by Ann Marie McGlynn and trained by Teresa McDaid from Letterkenny Athletic club, were also recognised. And also honoured was Finn Valley AC who won the Development Club of the Year.
It was a good month for the most part for Letterkenny AC’s McGlynn who won the 6km race at the British and Irish Masters Women’s Cross-Country Championships in Santry. And she was also a member of the Irish Masters winning team, which included her LAC colleagues Natasha Adams (2nd) and Fionnuala Diver who came third in the Over-35 race. And at the Podium 4 Sport Seeley 10K Road Race in Ormeau, Belfast on the last Saturday in November, McGlynn went someway to making up for missing out on qualification to the European Cross-Country in France with a PB of 34.19 on her way to winning the women’s event. The previous week her Euro hopes were dashed when she lost a shoe in Santry at the Irish Cross-Country Championships.
It was also a November to remember for young Gortahork girl Ciara Doogan who was named as Cycling Ireland’s Junior Female Rider of the Year at the annual awards ceremony in Dublin. Ciara had finished in 58th place at the Women’s Junior Road Race at the UCI World Road Championships in Richmond in Virginia, USA, in September and just a month before that the 17-year-old UCD student produced a fine ride to finish 25th in the Women’s Junior Road Race at the European Road Championships in Tartu, Estonia. It was her first major international championships.
Raphoe’s Mike Kelly won two bronze medals in the Galley Rifle category at the World Shooting Championships in Leitmar, Germany. Competing for Ireland against 114 others from around the world Kelly took his first bronze in the individual Galley Rifle 1500 Class finishing just a point behind the winner and level with the second placed. His second bronze medal was in the team event for his country.
Rathdonnell’s Gavin Harley had his biggest win of the season when taking first place on Undertone Van de Kapel at the Autumn at Oliva Nova in Spain. Brussels based Harley has had a good year culminating in the high profile victory in Oliva Nova where he was up against over 60 over riders which included some very big names.
The 2013 Overall Donegal Sports Star Award winner Jason Quigley (pictured above) extended his winning start to his professional career to nine but it was the former Finn Valley BC’s man toughest fight to date as he overcame Marchristopher Adkins in Las Vegas by a unanimous decision on all the judges scorecards. Quigley’s task was made a little more difficult after he suffered a nasty cut over his left eye. It was the first time that the Twins Towns man had been taken the distance since turning professional last year. In the middle of the month 102-year-old Jack Hannigan received the ‘Services to GAA’ award at the Ulster GAA Writers annual banquet in the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran. Termon’s Geraldine McLaughlin was presented with the Ladies Player of the Year while Ardara won the 2015 Club Ground Award.
There was national success for three young Raphoe Hockey Club players Luke Witherow, Alexander Tinney and Ben Wallace (pictured above) who were part of the victorious Ulster squad at the U18 Hockey Inter-provincials in Cork with four wins from their four outings. In the 8-2 win over Munster, Tinney, Ulster’s vice-captain, got one of the goals. All three were nominees for the Donegal Sports Star Awards last year. On the first day of the month Inishowen AC’s Pauric McKinney and Teresa McGloin of Finn Valley were the respective winners of the Donegal Senior Cross-Country Championships in Stranorlar. It was McKinney’s seventh title and an eighth for Doherty.
McKinney also won the Men’s O-50 category while Ciaran Doherty was third in the O-40s at the British and Irish Masters Cross-Country Championships in Santry. At the end of November Stranorlar native Gary Murray (2005 Overall Donegal Sports Star Award winner) was first across the line in the men’s race in a time of 31 minutes and six seconds at the Podium 4 Sport Seeley 10K Road Race in Ormeau, Belfast. Finn Valley AC’s Arlene Crossan won a special achievement award at the Ulster Athletics presentations in Monaghan and 91-year-old Hugh Gallagher picked up the International Achievement after winning three gold and a silver medal at the World Masters Championships in Lyon. Cranford AC’s Oisin Kelly also received an Ulster All Star Award.
In boxing Rosses native Shaun McShane defeated Ben Mulligan from Tyrone in lightweight contest at Ayr Town Hall in Scotland but at the end of the month there was no joy for Donna Barr (Twin Towns BC) and Maeve McCarron (Carrigart BC) who lost their respective Irish Elite Women’s Boxing Championship Finals at the National Stadium. Barr’s defeat was somewhat controversial as she was pipped on a split decision by reigning champion Lauren Hogan of Edenderry B.C. McCarron lost a unanimous decision to Diane Campbell from the Garda Club in Dublin. On the first day of November Milford clinched their place in Division 2 of the All-County League thanks to a 1-7 to 1-3 victory over Letterkenny Gaels at the Glebe while Kilcar easily disposed of the challenge of Ardara to reach a third Donegal Under-21 Championship final in a row with the help of second half goals from Ryan McHugh and Chris Doogan.
Kilcar’s Paddy McBrearty was a member of the Irish team that won 58-52 in International Rules Test against Australia at Croke Park. There was massive disappointment for the Bundoran club who lost the Ulster Intermediate Final against Loughinisland on a bizarre final scoreline of 4-1 to 0-7. Gortahork native Charlie McGeever managed Clonmel Commercials to a first Munster senior club title in 21 years overcoming Cork’s Nemo Rangers thanks to a late goal and there were three Donegal players on the Tirconaill Gaels side that won the London Senior County Championship title at Ruislip. Adrian Hanlon (Dungloe) and Seimi ‘Nanny’ Friel (Fanad Gaels) scored two first half goals in the 3-10 to 1-12 victory over St. Kieran’s while Kilcar’s Ashely Carr was a second half sub.
Donegal hurlers Jamsie Donnelly and Ronan McDermott were presented with their Nicky Rackard All-Star Awards in Dublin. In the middle of the month Larissa Muldoon and Nora Stapleton were part of the Ireland team who lost out to a late England try in an International at Twickenham. Muldoon from Cappry, was scrum-half, while Fahan native Stapleton came on at out-half just after the hour-mark. Katie Norris from Moville was also part of the replacements. There was heartbreak for Ballybofey man Johnny Dunleavy, captain of the Cork City side, who lost 1-0 after extra-time to Dundalk in the FAI Senior Cup Final at the Aviva.
In the middle of November a late goal from sub Ryan Doherty made sure that reigning Oscar Traynor champions Inishowen advanced to the knockout stages again in a 2-1 win over the Donegal Junior League. Former Kilmacrennan Celtic Ladies star Julie Anne Herrity (Donegal Sports Star Soccer Award winner 2009) was named South Atlantic Player of the Year following her performances for the Carson-Newman Eagles in Jefferson City, Tennessee. The Letterkenny woman scored 16 goals and was named South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week three times.
Burnfoot native Paul McLaughlin, a Garda based in Monaghan, was named PFAI Referee of the Year.
The Donegal Youth League drew 0-0 with Mayo in Castlebar in their opening FAI Inter-League group game and the Lagan Harps U18s advanced to the semi-finals of the Ladies National Cup with a 5-0 away win over Castlebar Celtic with Amy Boyd and Caoimhe Walsh getting two goals each with other scorer being Amanda Callaghan. Gweedore Celtic’s Mark Walsh came on as a sub for the Republic of Ireland U15 side who were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Poland in a friendly international at Rock Celtic FC. And at the same venue two days later Walsh started for the Irish and won a penalty which saw his side take the lead. He then scored the third goal in the 3-1 victory over the Poles in that second friendly.
Letterkenny Institute of Technology booked their place in the CUFL quarter-final with a 1-0 win over IT Tallaght thanks to Paul McVeigh’s 27th minute strike at the Port Road Campus. Towards the end of November Milford woman Amber Barrett was in top form for NUI Maynooth hitting a hat-trick against UCD in a win 3-1 win to ensure top spot in the group in the Premier North Division of the Women’s Colleges League.
Finn Harps U19s made a tame quarter-final exit from the National League competition losing 7-1 to Cork City in Bishopstown. On the last Sunday of the month the Donegal Junior League secured their place in the knockout stages of the Oscar Traynor Cup thanks to an impressive second half display that gave Brian Dorrian’s side a 5-2 win over Sligo/Leitrim at The Moss in Drumoghill.
On the last weekend of November Leon Vaughan, representing St. Eunan’s College won a medal for the sixth successive year at the Ulster Grammar Schools Swimming Championships. Eunan’s also took silver in the 200 metres medley relay and bronze in the intermediate 200m freestyle relay.
There was also success at the championships for Loreto Convent Letterkenny taking silver in the intermediate 200 metres medley relay and bronze in the 200m freestyl
For further information on the Donegal Sports Star Awards go to donegalsportsstarawards.ie, Twitter at DonegalSportsStars or on Facebook at Donegalsports Starawards.