Originally published in February 2019

Just short of my eighth birthday in 1992, Donegal famously lifted the Sam Maguire for the first time in our history. I’m glad I was the age that I was back then, because it meant I was old enough to appreciate and to be inspired by the local heroes that won it.

There’s certainly been a lot of ups and downs since that time, but nevertheless, it’s never been short of an adventure.

By Jonathan Foley

One of the best things about supporting Donegal is that although it’s not always easy, joyous or full of success, it’s still always interesting and never dull whatsoever. The power that gaelic football has, particularly in this county, should never be underestimated. What else has ever produced such as a sense of collectivism and community in a ‘remote’ region such as this one?

And for me, one of the most enjoyable sights you can ever wish to see comes along when the Ulster and All-Ireland series start up at the dawn of summer.

The toots of foghorns and the traffic cones been placed out on the roads as you wander up and over the bridge where you get to see MacCumhaill Park filling up its stand and terraces in the distance. Pure quality, lad!

Something that we’ve often got to enjoy this past few years is being a part of the festivities on Ulster Final day experience in Clones.

Even if the result didn’t always go our way in those finals, there’s still something so iconic about being part of the craic along the narrow streets of over-spilled pubs as thousands of of people in green and gold jerseys mingle about the place.

To an outsider, Ulster Final day probably resembles something like the time of a forgotten Ireland; an old-looking small town on a harvest day in the 1950s celebration perhaps.

A place where country and trad music bellows out of public houses and on the streets where men, women and children of all ages discuss and debate the day’s football.

Trips to Dublin have also become fairly commonplace for Donegal fans these past few years as well. This is where we swap the more rural surroundings for those of city buses, Luas lines and a stadium that’s a beautiful ‘house of steal’ located in the Drumcondra region; gradually getting engulfed with the flags and banners of Tír Chonáill … and whoever else is playing, of course. 

Mind you, anyone who’s ever stayed down the night of a game will tell you they still very much keep it ‘Dunnygawl’ as they fill up the dancefloors of Copper-Faced-Jacks and D2.

It’s cherished moments like these where we all partake in the behaviour that we may not do as much at home. Basically, ‘Wagon Wheel’ and ‘the Hills of Donegal’ go down just fine in these clubs, so they do.

It goes without saying that the most exciting period to be a Donegal fan was the Jim McGuinness era between 2011 and 2014.

Not only for the successes in Ulster and on the All-Ireland stage, but for how it brought about a wonderful sense of positivity and hope to a county which – let’s not kid ourselves – was suffering greatly from recession and emigration at the time. Even more than now, if that’s possible.

Those years granted supporters like us an ample opportunity to share in the adventure and success. It brought friends and families together in a spirit of community and song and thankfully, it didn’t stop when the man from Glenties resigned his position as manager. That legacy still lives on in, particularly with younger players and fans ever since.

Winning back the 2018 Ulster Championship, as well as a series of notable achievements by minor teams and local clubs sides since exemplifies this theory. 

Sure, we’re no Dublin in the way we win titles year after year, but we’re certainly no Carlow either.

Maybe that’s what makes being a Donegal fan so special.

Not always glamorous, not always dull and gloom, but always an adventure and, like many of you, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

H’up Donegal!

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