Top 5 Donegal GAA moments in recent history

Donegal’s football team has won it all since 2011. Here we’ve listed the five most memorable Donegal GAA moments from recent history.

Since the turn of the decade, Donegal has emerged as one of the most feared and competitive teams across Ireland, accumulating one All-Ireland title, another All-Ireland final appearance, and five Ulster titles in the process.

What Donegal football has achieved in recent history is remarkable, made possible during the Jim McGuinness era and beyond.

Here are the top five Donegal GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) moments in recent history.

5. Back-to-back Ulster 2018/19

One of the top 5 Donegal GAA moments in recent history is the back to back Ulster in 2018/19
Credit: @Simon_UTV / Twitter

Having dominated Ulster between 2011 and 2014, Donegal had lost their grip on the province and watched Tyrone claim back to back victories in 2016 and 2017.

Donegal struggled after Jim McGuinness left his management post, but the ship was steadied with Declan Bonner, who has since overseen Donegal’s first back-to-back Ulster titles since 2012.

Donegal started 2018 in the preliminary round and swept past Cavan, Derry, Down, and Fermanagh in the decider on their way to a commanding 9th title.

The Tir Chonaill men defeated Tyrone in the 2019 semi-final before dispatching of underdogs Cavan by a scoreline of 1-24 to 2-16. Donegal had claimed their fifth provincial title since 2011, after only winning five in their entire history beforehand.

4. Defeat of Kildare in 2011 All-Ireland Quarter Final

Donegal GAA has had some memorable achievements in recent history
Credit: @UlsterGAA / Twitter

Jim McGuinness took over the Donegal senior football team in 2010 and defied all critics to lift Ulster before entering the All-Ireland series.

Kildare awaited the Tir Chonaill men in what was one of the most fraught and intense games of football of this decade. The game was brought to extra time as the two sides couldn’t be separated.

Kildare had opened up a three-point lead before two huge Michael Murphy points made it a one-point game. Christy Toye equalised as additional time in extra time was called.

Cue one of the most iconic point in football history. The ball made its way to Kevin Cassidy, who was standing outside of the 45-yard line. With the outside of the boot, the Gaoth Dobhair man converted the score and sent the Donegal fans into raptures.

3. First Ulster Championship win since 1992 in 2011

One of the top 5 Donegal GAA moments in recent history is the Ulster Championship win in 2011
Credit: @gaelicplayers / Twitter

Coming in to the 2011 Championship season, Donegal hadn’t won Ulster in 20 years. New manager Jim McGuinness revolutionized the game with his unique tactics and kick-started the Donegal story with an Ulster Championship victory in 2011.

McGuinness had guided the Donegal Under 21 team to an All-Ireland final appearance in 2010 and the injection of youth mixed with experience was key to this provincial success.

2009 finalists Antrim were defeated 1-10 to 0-7 in the preliminary round, before Cavan were easily disposed of in the last eight with a convincing 2-14 to 1-8 victory in Ballybofey.

Donegal were building momentum and scored a massive psychological success defeating Ulster kingpins Tyrone in the semi-final. Neighbours Derry awaited in the decider but were swept away in the McGuinness tide as the county began their period of control in Ulster.

2. Defeat of Dublin 2014 All-Ireland Semi-Final

The 2014 All-Ireland Semi-Final was a major moment for Donegal GAA
Credit: Eoin Gardiner / Flickr

Donegal’s defeat of Dublin in the 2014 All-Ireland Football Semi-Final is one of the biggest shocks of this era and stands as Donegal’s second greatest achievement of recent history.

Donegal had ran out of steam in 2013 and were questioned heading into the 2014 campaign. Dublin had reclaimed Sam in 2013 and were everyone’s favourites to do two in a row and were dubbed “unbeatable.”

However, McGuinness and co had devised a game plan to stop the Dubs. Despite an early 6-point lead for Dublin, Donegal had started to control the game and headed into the break in front courtesy of a Ryan McHugh goal.

The youngster converted again in the second before a Colm McFadden goal sealed the game with a 3-14 to 0-16 victory, a mastermind by McGuinness. History has treated this game well; it is the last time Dublin have lost a Championship game, and have won an unprecedented five All-Ireland titles in a row since.

1. 2012 All-Ireland

Croke Park, where the 2012 All-Ireland took place

Undoubtedly the best Donegal GAA moment from recent history was winning the All-Ireland title in 2012, only the second in the county’s history.

The Donegal players were taken aback when Jim McGuinness told the side early in 2011 that they would win an All-Ireland title. A year and a half later, this dream became a reality.

Donegal raced through Ulster to win their second title on the bounce. The Kingdom of Kerry awaited in the Quarter-Final, with a late Karl Lacey point sealing the game. Donegal then defeated a fancied Cork side in the last four to reach the All-Ireland final.

Mayo awaited, but the game was won in 10 minutes. An explosive Michael Murphy goal was followed by another from Colin McFadden, sending the side seven points up early on. The game finished 2-11 to 0-13 as Michael Murphy lifted Sam aloft the steps of Croke Park.

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Dan O'Muirigh is a keen travel writer from Belfast, County Antrim. He is a passionate sports man who plays Gaelic football for Naomh Gall GAC. He recently graduated with a degree in Law but instead wants to pursue a career in writing. He loves Ireland and believes the island offers something for everyone. He has immersed himself into the country by playing Irish sports, taking part in the culture and learning the Irish language.