History of Donegal GAA

Although the G.A.A. was founded in 1884 the Donegal County Board was not formed until October 1905 (at a meeting in Mountcharles).  A few years of activity were followed by ten years of inactivity until the County Board was re-formed in 1919.  It has been at the helm since.  Today, there are 40 adult clubs in the County.

Dún na nGall won the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship in 1906, 1923 and 1932 but football has been the dominant game in the County.  Inter-county success was slow in coming.  Dún na nGall won the Ulster Junior Football Championship in 1930, 1933, 1939, 1952 and 1954.  The first Ulster Minor Championship was not won until 1956 and the Anglo-Celt Cup (for the Ulster Senior Football Championship) was not won until 1972, a victory which ushered in the Brian McEniff era, which saw further Ulster Senior Championship titles coming to Dún na nGall in 1974, 1983, 1990 and 1992.  The first All-Ireland inter-county football title did not come to Dún na nGall until the U-21 team won the 1982 championship.  A second U-21 All-Ireland Championship was won in 1987.  At long last, the Sam Maguire Cup was won on September 20, 1992, when Dún na nGall beat Dublin 0-18/0-14.  The National League Division 1 title was won in 2007 but it wasn’t until the Jim McGuinness era that Sam came to Dún na nGall for the second time with the 2-11/0-13 victory over Maigh Eo in 2012.  The great Michael Murphy followed in Anthony Molloy’s footsteps up the steps of the Hogan Stand.  The present decade (2010-2019) has been a decade of great achievement with the 2012 All-Ireland success, five Ulster Senior titles (2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019), two Ulster U-21 titles (2010, 2017), two Ulster Minor Championships (2014, 2016); and four Ulster Vocational Schools’ titles (the Vocational Schools have won 6 All-Irelands – 1984, 1985, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2011.  St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny (1979) and De La Salle, Ballyshannon (1980) won All-Ireland Colleges’ Senior B titles but the McRory Cup is still to be won).


Indeed, the present decade has seen major achievements by the Dún na nGall hurlers and the Dún na nGall ladies.  The Burt and Setanta clubs continue to lead the Hurling fraternity with pride and persistence.  Dún na nGall won the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2013 and 2018, the Lory Meagher Cup in 2011 and the National Hurling League Division 3A in 2014 and 2016.  Burt and Setanta have won the Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship (2014 and 2017 respectively).  The Dún na nGall ladies won the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship in 2010, the National Football League Division 2 in 2010 and 2016 and the Ulster Senior Football Championship in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019, clear evidence of the growth of the ladies’ game in the County. Termon had an outstanding achievement when they won the All-Ireland Senior club title in 2014.  A small band of people continue to promote Camogie and Handball.

Dún na nGall players have gained National recognition.  Martin McHugh, holder of 5 Railway Cup medals, won the 1992 Texaco Award for Gaelic Footballer of the year.  Karl Lacey was the 2012 player of the year.  Michael Murphy captained Ireland against Australia in 2014 and played in five series against the Aussies.  Neil McGee has played a record 178 times for Dún na nGall.  32 Dún na nGall men have won All-Star awards as have Yvonne McMonagle, Ciara and Niamh Hegarty and Treasa Doherty.  Geraldine McLaughlin should be added to the list in 2019!

On the club scene, the county was divided into five Divisions from 1933 until 1971 – South, South-West, West, East and Inishowen.  Fabled battles were fought between Ballyshannon and Bundoran; Ardara and Glenties; Dungloe and Gaoth Dobhair; St. Eunan’s and Seán Mac Cumhaills.  Gaoth Dobhair tops the Senior Football Championship roll of honour, winning their fifteenth title in 2018.  St. Eunan’s are hot on their heels with 14.  The present decade has seen the emergence of Naomh Conall, Glenswilly and Kilcar.  Inishowen forlornly awaits its first Senior Championship.  The great St. Joseph’s team won the Ulster Club Senior Football Championship in 1975 and Dún na nGall had to wait until 2018 for the next success when Gaoth Dobhair won.  Glenfin (2001) and St. Michael’s (2003) have won the Ulster Intermediate Championship while Naomh Colmcille (2017) and Red Hughs (2018) have annexed the Junior crown.  In the past 40 years Burt have won the Dún na nGall Senior Hurling Championship 26 times (including 16-in-a-row), Setanta 12 times and Seán Mac Cumhaills twice.

Since 1992 St. Eunan’s have won the Dún na nGall Ladies Senior Football Championship 13 times (including 10-in-a-row) followed by Termon (6), Glenfin (3), Moville (3), Four Masters (2) and Ballyshannon (1).

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