The Donegal Sports Star Awards March review reveals an impressive array of successes for the county at home and abroad. Once again Ballyshannon Marlins Swimming Club member Mona McSharry hit the headlines after setting another Irish record in the 50m breastroke at the Edinburgh International Meeting in a time of 30.87 seconds.
Also abroad on the last day of March Jason Quigley made a winning return to the ring in Boston by stopping Daniel Rosario in the sixth round. Also in the ring at national level Letterkenny IT student Matthew McCole took gold in the Elite 64kg category on a unanimous decision at the Irish Third Level Boxing Championships Finals defeating Sean Gallagher from Trinity College Dublin. Another LYIT student Danny Boyle took the Senior Novice 75kg title by overcoming Waterford IT’s Paul Fitzgibbon inside the distance. Dylan Browne-McMonagle and Paddy McShane members of Letterkenny ABC took Irish juvenile boxing titles at the National Stadium in Dublin. McShane was successful in the Boy 4 category. Browne-McMonagle who was also a winner in Boy 4 is a talented sports boy having also excelled as a jockey over the past couple of years.
It was a good month for two Donegal rally crews. First Declan Boyle and co-driver James O’Reilly made the perfect start to the season by winning the opening round of the National Rally Championship in Mayo. Boyle and O’Reilly led the nine stage Mayo Rally from start to finish. Just a week later Donagh Kelly won the West Cork Rally for a fifth successive year. Kelly and his co-driver Conor Foley also led from start to finish.
There was a big boost men’s rugby in Donegal as Letterkenny lad Joe Dunleavy turned in an impressive performance on his Irish U20 debut in a super Six Nations Championship 30-25 win over Scotland at Donnybrook. A week later Dunleavy made his second international appearance but it ended in defeat at the Irish U20s lost to England at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
March was also good for the LYIT as their ladies basketball team won the Division 2 national final thanks to a narrow 94-92 win over Griffith College at Inchicore in Dublin. And the LYIT Ladies soccer side won the national O’Regan Intervarsities Shield title after a 2-0 win over the Garda College in Limerick. Player of the Match Zoe Green and Zoe McGlynn were the goalscorers.
Carndonagh C.S. pupil Erin Fildara and Kerry Brown from Moville C.S. both came on as second half subs for the Republic of Ireland U15 Schools side that the retained the international John Read Trophy thanks to a 3-0 win over England. Fildara got the third goal to make sure of the title. In the middle of the month Moville Community School won the FAI Junior Girls National Cup Final by overcoming Galway’s Coaliste Bhaile Chlair (Claregalway) 2-1 in the decider.
In athletics Letterkenny AC’s Nakita Burke’s phenomenal improvement continued in Belfast in the Deep River Rock Queen’s 5k. Nakita earned a new PB of almost 20 seconds and her first sub 17 minute 5k in an excellent time of 16.45. She was the second woman with only Newcastle and District AC’s Kerry O’Flaherty ahead of her. There was disappointment for Glenfin lad Odhran McGlynn who suffered defeat in the U17 All-Ireland Final.
Four Inishowen men were medal winners at the World Tug of War Championships in China. Carn’s Gerard Porter won double gold in the 560kgs category for his club St. Pat’s Louth and Ireland. Another St. Pat’s member Shaun Doherty from Clonmany also won gold in the 680kg category. There was bronze for Doherty and two other Clonmany men Dan Harkin and Andrew McGonigle in the 680kg category.
On the last Sunday in March the Donegal/Derry Vipers got their American Football season off to a winning start away to Westmeath Minotaurs on a final score of 22-7.
The Mulroy Hoops U14 Boys Basketball team won the NWB U14 League Play-off title defeating Belfast Star in Ray. It was a good month for the Mulroy Hoops Club as their U14 Girls side reached the NWB League Final for the first time ever.
In Cue Sports, Northwest Snooker Club Letterkenny members Sean Devenney and Johnny Connors won the NSASA Eamonn Casson Memorial Cup at the AOH Club in Derry by overcoming the CYMS pair of Phelim McClafferty and Gareth Kirwin. Four Donegal players the Hegarty sisters Ciara and Niamh along with Yvonne Bonner and Karen Guthrie were members of the 2016 and 2017 TG4 Ladies Football All-Stars who played in Bangkok over the St. Patrick’s weekend.
On the last day of March and despite defeat in a high scoring clash with Mayo in Swinford (5-14 to 4-12) the Donegal senior ladies side were still in with a chance of making the semi-final stages of the National Football League Division. A week earlier the side managed by Maxi Curran Damian Devaney kept themsleves in the frame for the knockout stages after a massive 20-point win over a very disappointing Kerry side in Ballybofey (6-11 to 0-9). There were two goals each for Yvonne Bonner and Ciara Grant while Karen Guthrie and Sarah Jane McDonald also found the back of the net.
There was bitter disappointment for St. Eunan’s College who lost out by a single point to Holy Trinity, Cookstown in the McLarnon Cup replay at Celtic Park in Derry after extra-time (2-8 to 0-13). And it was a similar story for Coaliste Ailigh, Letterkenny who lost 2-14 to 4-9 to St. Cuan’s Castleblaney Coolooney, Sligo in their first ever All-Ireland Final appearance.
The Donegal U17s had an easy 2-17 to 1-9 victory over Fermanagh in the Ulster League at McCumhaill Park. And the Donegal U16s were comfortable winners over Down in Saval in their opening Buncrana Cup game (0-22 to 2-3).
The reality of Division 2 football won’t really hit home till early next year but that’s where Donegal will be after being relegated at McCumhaill Park when
Mayo came from three points down to secure their place in the top flight for the 21st successive year (0-13 each). Saturday 10th March. Earlier in the month Declan Bonner’s men suffered defeats against Tyrone 2-13 to 1-10 at Healy Park in Omagh and went down by six points against Monaghan in Clones (1-16 to 1-10).
In hurling two Declan Coulter goals helped gave the Donegal senior hurlers a 2-17 to 1-17 win over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds to secure Mickey McCann’s side a place in Division 2B for a second successive year. It was the first time that Donegal has managed to achieve that objective.
On the first Saturday in March, Seamus Coleman made his 250th club appearance for Everton but it ended in a 2-1 defeat to Burnley.
A spectacular late Carl McHugh strike helped his side Motherwell to secure a 2-1 win over Hearts in a Scottish FA Cup quarter-final tie.
March was good for Donegal lads Conor Blaney, Timmy Govorov and Jason Quinn who were members of the IT Sligo squad that won the CFAI Plate Final by overcoming GMIT Galway 3-1.
And the same trio were members of the IT Sligo squad that defeated Limerick IT 2-1 in the Intervarsities Division 1 Final in Limerick.
Finn Harps finally kicked off their new League of Ireland First Division season with a 1-1 draw against Shelbourne in Ballybofey. Harps followed that up on the Monday night with a narrow 4-3 win in the end against the Mayo League in the EA Sports Cup. Ollie Horgan’s men had led 4-0 until the hour mark. On St. Patrick’s evening late goals from John O’Flynn and Ciaran O’Connor gave Harps an excellent 2-0 win over Cobh Ramblers at St. Patrick’s Park.
Two controversial calls by referee Robert Harvey were the defining moments as Ollie Horgan’s side lost for the first time this season away to Drogheda Utd. The two decisions came in the opening half-hour of the rescheduled First Division fixture that ended 2-0 in favour of the hosts. Despite having long spells of domination Harps had to settle for a share of the spoils away to Athlone Town (1-1) who managed their first point of the SSE Airtricity League Division One campaign after losing their opening four games of the campaign.
The Letterkenny Rovers U15s booked their place in the semi-finals of the SFAI National Cup after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory over Crumlin Utd at Leckview Park. The chances of Letterkenny Rovers making the FAI Intermediate Cup Final for the second time in three years were dealt a big blow at Leckview Park as Eamonn McConigley’s side were held to a draw by Dublin outfit Firhouse Clover.
Letterkenny 24/7s John Conaghan was first in he M55-59 category in the Tri122 Lanzarote International
In Secondary Schools sport
Carndonagh Community School won their first ever Ulster Markey Cup title getting the better of St. Columba’s College Stranorlar in an all Donegal final at the O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny (3-8 to 1-10).