Captain of the Republic of Ireland’s football team Seamus Coleman said he was stunned and honoured as he was conferred with the freedom of Donegal in his native county last night.
Those gathered were told it was a proud moment for the Killybegs native, who became captain of the Irish squad last year following Robbie Keane’s retirement, as well as for the County.
The ceremony and civic reception was held at County House, Lifford on Friday evening.
The event was hosted by Donegal Cathaoirleach (chairperson) Councillor Terence Slowey and elected members of Donegal County Council.
In his opening address, Terence Slowey said that Seamus Coleman is known across the globe as a world class footballer, but that in Donegal he is known as “the boy who has made good but has never forgotten his roots”.
“Seamus Coleman is well known not only here in Donegal and in Ireland but throughout the UK and across the globe for his skills as a world class footballer,” he said.
“But here in Donegal, that is not all he is known for. He is known for his love of Killybegs and for his love of Donegal.
“He is known for his love of Gaelic football and for his lifelong support for his local GAA team Na Cealla Beaga.”
Coleman started his football career with St. Catherine’s in Killybegs. He went on to join League of Ireland side Sligo Rovers in 2006 and then moved to England to sign for Everton in January 2009.
He has made over 200 appearances for Everton and is regarded as one of the league’s top full-backs.
Coleman has been a senior international for the Republic of Ireland since 2011, acquiring over 40 caps. He won the 2011 Nations Cup and was awarded the FAI Under-21 International Player of the Year in both 2009 and 2010.
He was selected for the Ireland squad at UEFA Euro 2016, captaining Ireland against both Italy and France and in September 2016 he was named as Ireland’s permanent captain following the retirement from international football of Robbie Keane.
Seamus Coleman was joined by his wife Rachel, his daughter Lily, his mother Maire, his father Henry and his brothers Stevie and Francis at Friday’s ceremony, where he received the honour of the freedom of the county in recognition of his footballing achievements, including the captaincy of the Republic of Ireland football team.
Speaking at the ceremony, an emotional Seamus Coleman said that he was shocked to receive this honour and that this award would take pride of place in his home.
He also talked about how proud he is to be from Killybegs and Donegal, and said that his heart would always lie here.
He thanked his mother and father for all their support and told the audience that he was taught from a very early age to always say thank you, and that this is something that he has carried with him throughout his life.
He also spoke about his recent injury which he received during the World Cup Qualifier against Wales in March this year and said that, while it was a set back, he is fully committed to making a full recovery and left his guests in no doubt that he is still hungry to succeed at Premier League level.
Coleman concluded by paying tribute to his wife Rachel and thanked her for her endless support and commitment.
Chief Executive of Donegal County Council Seamus Neely also spoke at the ceremony and said that while this is a very special day for Seamus and his family it is also a very special day for the soccer community in Donegal.
“Seamus like so many other young boys and girls in Donegal started his footballing career in his local club, in this case St. Catherine’s in Killybegs. And Seamus’s ongoing support and commitment of his home club demonstrates the esteem with which he holds this club, the people of the club and what they do week in and week out for the children and young people in his area.
“This is replicated in towns and villages across the county and indeed across the country. These volunteers are the people who to turn up night after night, in all types of weather to give our children and young people the opportunity to participate, to learn, to grow and in Seamus’s case to become one of the most highly regarded players in the Premier League.”
An elected member representing each political party and grouping within Donegal County Council also congratulated Seamus Coleman on receiving this award and the Cathaoirleach Cllr. Terence Slowey summed up the feeling of all those present when he said “while you have achieved great things on the field, I can’t help but be most impressed by your achievements off the field. You are a modest and humble person. A person who always has time to talk to his supporters and especially the children and young people that look up to you as their hero and role model”.
“You are also a person who remains hugely committed to your hometown and you are a wonderful ambassador for Donegal”.
Seamus is the eight recipient of a badge and pin, specially commissioned by the Council and which is reserved exclusively for those on whom the Freedom of the County is conferred.
The badge, crafted by Ms Geraldine Hannigan, Designer Goldsmith, Letterkenny, and mounted on a background designed by Mr Fionntan Gogarty, Artworks, is a silver replication of the County Badge granted to the Council County by the Chief Herald of Ireland as part of a Grant of Arms to the County.
The badge comprises the O’Donnell Cross enfiled by an Iunula.
The Iunula on which it is based was discovered at Trentagh, Co. Donegal, and dates to the period 1500 -2,000 B.C. It is on display in the National Museum.