Gutted. That’s the feeling that surged through the crowd in the Plaza, and everyone everywhere that were sporting the Donegal colours as the final whistle blew last Sunday. Truth be told, I held off writing this column until after the match. I did not aspire to start my piece with the word ‘gutted’ the same way Donegal did not set out to be defeated. However, Kerry’s defence proved invincible. Donegal failed to break through but they stayed resolute to the end, and then there was that heart stopping moment within the final minutes. We were up on our feet, holding our breath, glued to the action in front of the Kerry goal posts. The boys sought desperately to pack a goal to save their All-Ireland hopes. Colm McFadden came agonisingly close to smashing it in the net seconds before the final whistle. Only the width of the goal post denied them a dramatic equaliser at the eleventh hour. The final whistle blew before we were prepared for it and Kerry carried away our dream for the 37th time. We were pipped by a post!
I didn’t want Donegal to draw, I wanted them to win but had Donegal drew with the Kingdom it would have offered a second chance. It wasn’t to be and now we all have to deal with the disappointment that was etched on the face of the Senior and Minor players. With their dreams dashed, they will have to get up, brush themselves down and deal with a double disappointment and the possibility of Jim’s departure from management as he comes to the end of his term this season.
In the midst of our disappointment, it’s a good time to remember an exciting period for Donegal football since Jim McGuinness took control for the start of the 2011 season. Three Ulster titles and an All-Ireland crown have followed. They lost an All-Ireland semi-final and an All-Ireland final. After their unforgettable win over Dublin, our confidence soared that raised our expectations of the Ulster Champions. There’s no question that we all have been subjected to a powerfully evocative, emotional experience ranging from the roller coaster high that comes with the thrill of victory to the crushing agony of defeat. Every team no matter how good they are will at some stage go through a series of games where they lose more than once and the coach has to deal with the outcome. Images of the players after the game weighed heavily on all the Donegal supporters who travelled to Dublin or stayed at home as we came to terms with our loss. Losing stinks! There is no doubt about it.
This is what life is all about; peaks and valleys, joy and sorrow, doing the best you can to achieve your goals and dreams. In sport, as in life, we must not let disappointment defeat us. We must stay positive, and believe in our worth. Donegal has truly worked hard to achieve this season and opportunity will come around again. In the mean time we can praise Donegal and keep our flag flying for the county. The team has become accustomed to being a big player on the main football days of August and September and has brought us hours of excitement and joy for the county. Sometimes, as in life, the barriers to success can be just too great, like Kerry’s defence, but we can be proud of Jim McGuinness, Declan Bonner and the Donegal teams and crew, and look forward to many more days when the ball will roll our way and the posts will not get in the way.