Donegal Sports Star Awards February Review

There was no shortage of sporting success for Donegal in February with big achievements in GAA, swimming, triathlon, soccer, darts, horseracing, endurance cycling, athletics and snooker.  On the last weekend of the month Ramelton man Paddy Bond took a gold and silver at the International Ice Swimming Association GB Championships in Leeds. Paddy was first in the M35-39 1k swim category and second overall in the 50 Fly.

On the first day of February, Laura Dugera scored twice as Mulroy College Milford retained their FAIS Senior ‘B’ National Girls title after a 2-0 win over Midleton College from Cork. One of their students who had to miss out on that success was Swilly Rovers player Catherine Grier who scored for English club Doncaster in the semi finals of the Champions League Deaf Futsal. However, it was to end in disappointment for the Ramelton girls as they lost out to 7-5 to Polish outfit Warsaw in a remarkable game.

In darts Donegal did the treble at the West Coast Challenge in Castlebar with their senior men and women taking titles along with the youth team. It was a fabulous February for Trentagh native Martin Harley who first rode Thaqaffa to victory for the third time in 2018 as he steered the Amy Murphy-trained five-year-old to a win at Kempton Park in the Matchbook Casino Handicap.

A couple of days later he followed that up by steering Author’s Dream to victory in the Betway Casino Handicap at Lingfield Park.

Next up Harley rode Inn The Bull to victory at Wolverhampton.

Harley took the win on the 3/1 shot, trained by Alan King, in the Betway Casino Handicap.



On the last Monday of the month Harley super start in the saddle continued at Wolverhampton on as the Trentagh man completed a spectacular treble to bring him past the 20- winner mark for the season. His first win was on the 11/10 favourite Ty Rock Brandy for trainer Lee Smyth. Harley’s second win was on another favourite Inn The Bull at 6/4 for trainer Alan King. Rae Guest’s Midnightly completed the treble which came home at 12/1.

Letterkenny man Jason Black completed the mammoth 1,000km cycle race in the Middle East. The incredibly challenging event took place in Oman and was Black’s first attempt at a solo unsupported race.

At the beginning of February in athletics Finn Valley AC’s Dempsey McGuigan set a new Donegal record in the hammer throw, as well as a new PB and University Best in Illionois, USA. McGuigan threw the 35lb weight a distance of 21.22m. Nationally Karl Griffin returned from injury to win the 800m at the Athletics Ireland Indoor Championships in Abbottstown in a time of 1.50.31.

A couple of weeks later Griffin was back on the podium as runner-up to fellow Donegal man Mark English in the 800m Final at the National Indoors in Abbottstown. Finn Valley’s John Kelly took silver in the Shot Putt while club colleague Sommer Lecky won the High Jump title.

Letterkenny AC’s Danny Mooney won the 1,500m event at the Athletics Ireland Indoor Championships in Abbottstown in a time of 3.51.71.

On the first Saturday in February another Letterkenny AC member Nakita Burke continued her fine winter form finishing second overall in the Omagh 5k and first woman home in a time of 17.36.

Burke’s success continued six days later as she finished second at the National Intermediate Championships in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway. The Donegal Ladies took bronze in the Inter-County race while Letterkenny AC were runners-up in the O35 team event.

Finn Valley’s Sommer Lecky won the High Jump at the IFAM International event in Belgium, clearing 1.86m in her first attempt to take the title. Letterkenny AC’s Catriona Jennings broke her own Irish record as she won the National 50k Championship title in Kildare. Amy Greene of Rosses AC won the Girls U15 event at the Irish Intermediate, Masters and Juvenile Cross-Country Championships in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway.

Meanwhile, Mark English had to settle for second place in an 800m race during the AIT Grand Prix in Athlone. The Letterkenny man’s time was 1.47.48 just behind Spaniard Kevin Lopez (1.47.43).

On the last weekend of the month Letterkenny 24/7 member Christine Russell was third female home overall at the Naas Duathlon in a time of 1.03.23. It also gave her second place in the Intervarsity Championship representing NUI Galway.

Fellow Letterkenny 24/7 member Orlaith Fogarty was first in the 20-24 age category and 19th overall female in Naas.

In rugby Ballybofey’s Laura Feely made her competitive Ireland debut as last sub but it ended in defeat 24-0 to France at the Stade Ernest Wallon. Feely also made a couple of more appearances from the bench.

Ardara’s Ronan Whyte fine run in the European Individual U18 Championships in Bulgaria came to an end at the last 16 stage of the competition when he lost 3-0 to England’s Sean McAllister.

Then in Carlow, Ronan lost 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the qualifiers for the World U18 Championships. His North West Snooker Club colleague Sean Devenney lost out in the final 3-1.

In the middle of February Donegal were crowned McKenna Cup champions after a well deserved 1-16 to 1-12 win over Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh with the help of a first half Martin McElhinney goal. Three Cian Mulligan goals helped Gweedore to take the Ulster U21 Club Championship title after a big win over Lavey on a score of 4-7 to 0-6. It was the first time for a Donegal club to win the title.

History was made at the Garvaghy Centre of Excellence when Coaliste Ailigh Letterkenny won a senior schools GAA title for the first time ever after defeating Ballybay Community School from Monaghan by 3-12 to 2-10 in the final.

There was success for the Glenfin Club at the Ulster Juvenile Championships held in Saval, Co. Down. In the Girls U13 Doubles there was victory for Aibhe McMenamin and Katelyn Houston while Caoimhe McGlynn was runner up in the U15 Singles Final. In the U17 Boys Singles Odhran McGlynn was crowned Ulster champion.

On the last Saturday in February LYIT Donegal basketball men’s team put themselves in the frame for a league play-off place after a 108-81 win over the Galway Titans

In boxing there was a quarter-final defeat for Dungloe B.C.’s Matthew McCole at the Irish Elite Championship Finals at the National Stadium going down 5-0 to Wayne Kelly of Portlaoise in the 64kgs category.




Donegal’s poor start to the Division 1 league campaign continued as Declan Bonner’s men went down by a point in Division this time to Galway at the O’Donnell Park (1-12 to 0-14). Six days later and despite a gallant performance Donegal suffered their third successive loss in the league this time to Dublin Croke Park (0-20 to 0-15).

However on the last Sunday in February the first league points were finally secured but it was a struggle against a Kildare side that played with 14 men from the 15th minute at Fr. Tierney Park in Ballyshannon (1-15 to 3-7).

After the opening round defeat to Dublin it was a late Yvonne Bonner free that got the Donegal ladies 1-13 Galway 0-16 draw against Galway in a Division 1 game in Glenfin. The side managed by Maxi Curran and Damian Devaney did a demolition job on Westmeath in a rearranged Division 1 league fixture played in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh. Donegal won by 9-17 to 1-5 with Yvonne Bonner scoring 3-6. The Ladies virtually made sure of their Division 1 status for next season after a 1-7 to 1-4 win over Monaghan in Clones.

Mya Alcorn (Loreto Convent Letterkenny), Shannon McLaughlin (Coaliste Ailigh Letterkenny) and Sarah Harkin (St. Columba’s Comprehensive, Glenties) were presented with Ulster Colleges All-Star Awards in Kellys Inn, Garvaghey.

The Donegal senior hurlers made history at the O’Donnell Park by defeating Down for first time ever by 0-17 to 0-14 in Division 2B.

At the start of the month there was huge morale boosting 14-point win for Donegal in Division 2B of the National Hurling League. Mickey McCann’s men defeated Derry by 4-17 to 2-09 at the O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny. Donegal came back all guns blazing after losing to Mayo in the league opener the previous week with the goals coming from David Coulter with two, Bernard Lafferty and Ronan McDermott while Lee Henderson scored six points. But that was followed by a 2-21 to 0-21 loss to Wicklow in Aughrim.

There was a good weekend for Donegal motorsport at the Birr Stages Rally where Donagh Kelly and Conor Foley were second in their Ford Fiesta WRC with Declan Boyle and Conor O’Reilly third also in a Ford Fiesta WRC while Joseph McGonagle and Ciaran Geaney finished fourth in their BMW Mini WRC.


Former Letterkenny underage rugby player Justin Allen is really looking forward to huge career move in the USA. The 22-year-old signed a two-year professional contract with the Houston SaberCats Club in the USA at Christmas time. The 6’11’, 250-pound lock is in training now for the inaugural 2018 Major League Rugby season.

Inishowen man Georgie Kelly helped UCD to win the Collingwood Cup final. Kelly had scored in the 2-0 semi-final win over DCU having netted twice in the 3-0 victory over Maynooth.


In the middle of the month Gweedore’s Marc Walsh started for the Republic of Ireland U17s in a 1-1 friendly draw against Turkey at Eamonn Deacy Park in Galway. Walsh is on the books of English Premiership side Swansea City.

Barry McNamee scored the very first goal of the new League of Ireland Premier Division season when he put Cork City ahead in the third minute against St Patrick’s Athletic at Inchicore on Friday night. The Ramelton man had also scored in the President’s Cup Final the previous weekend. Cork won Friday night’s game 3-2.

Letterkenny Rovers U15s secured their place in the SFAI National Cup quarter finals after a well deserved 1-0 win over Mervue Utd in a scrappy encounter at the Aura Centre with Sean McVeigh getting the goal just before the interval.

Despite losing 2-0 to group toppers Mayo the Donegal Youth League qualified as runners-up for the knockout stages of the FAI Inter-League competition. On the last Sunday in February and for the second time in three years Letterkenny booked their place in the semi-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup after Darren McElwaine’s brace gave Eamonn McConigley’s side a 2-0 win over Dublin outfit Home Farm at Leckview Park.

The Carndonagh team took silver at the British and Irish Tug-o-war Championships in Enniskillen in the 620kg category.

At the start of February, Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny had a 5-2 win over Crana College, Buncrana.

at Whitestrand to win the Ulster Junior B Girls Final. It was a fine performance from Keith Cowan’s side. There was an Ulster double for Moville Community School who won both the Senior and U17 FAI Schools provincial soccer titles.