From a quick dip into the results archive, it’s immediately clear that (a) we haven’t kicked much ball with Donegal over the past fifty years and (b) most of the kicking has been of the form of them kicking our holes. We’ve only met them eight times over this period, with all these meetings taking place within the 25-year stretch back to 1984; we didn’t cross paths with them at all in the preceding quarter-century. Seven of the eight encounters occurred in the league, one of which – in 2007 – occurred in the NFL final. Our record over the eight games of one win, one draw and six losses speaks for itself, as does the aggregate score of 8-95 to 5-83 in their favour. The complete record is set out in the table below.
It’s odd, perhaps, that, despite the very small number of clashes that have taken place between the two counties over the past half-century, we have met quite a bit more recently. We’ve played each other three times in the past two years, to be exact and, of course, we lost all three of these encounters – first the Division 1 NFL match up in Ballybofey around this time two years back, then the league final against them in April of that year and then last year’s NFL meeting in McHale Park. That latter one was surely the most galling defeat of the three as we’d played quite well that day and looked to have the points safely in the bag when this happened.
The last time – indeed, the only time in the past fifty years – that we beat the Herrin Gutters was back in February 2005 when we had two points to spare over them in a Division 1A clash at Ballina. We have plenty of survivors from that clash on the current panel, including David Clarke, Pat Kelly, Liam O’Malley, Peadar Gardiner, Billy Joe Padden, Aidan Kilcoyne, Conor Mortimer, Alan Dillon, Trevor Mortimer and Andy Moran. Conor (1-4) and Alan (1-2) contributed the bulk of our scores that day. No change there, either.
Our record of playing Donegal on their home patch is, not surprisingly, a poor one: we’ve lost three and drawn one of the four league matches we’ve played up in the O’Donnell County since 1959. I was at that drawn match – it was in the backend of 1985 and our lads were in good form following the summer’s championship exploits but it was only a point deep in stoppage time from Noel Durcan that rescued a share of the spoils for us that day in Ballyshannon.
I wasn’t at Croke Park in 1992, however, for the one and only meeting of the two counties in the championship. That was during my emigrant days in London and, if my memory serves me correctly, I was even further away – on holidays down in Spain – on the day the match was played in August of that year. It was an All-Ireland semi-final that the county expected to win – having acquitted ourselves well in the final three years prior to that – but which we undoubtedly deserved to lose, as we only managed to score a single point from play in the second half while Donegal shot a total of 17 wides but still finished four points ahead of us.