Donncha caps dream year with Derry and Steelstown!

Donnacha Gilmore doesn’t water ski but if he did, he’d probably be the best water skier in the world.....

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 1:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 1:56 pm

Okay, so it’s maybe a stretch to borrow that well known advertising slogan but Steelstown’s young half-back is making this football lark look easy.

On Saturday in Ballymaguigan, the talented teenager added a first county medal to the All Ireland winning minor one he picked up in July thanks to a memorable victory over Kerry. Some of his club-mates have been waiting more than a decade and four finals to finally get their hands on the Sheridan, Bateson and Lee trophy and the club has waited 34 years for a first senior championship title.

Not Donnacha; First year with the senior team, hugely pivotal role, and the championship monkey is off the back with the promise of more to come from the Ballyarnett club. Maybe that slogan isn’t so far fetched after all!

Steelstown’s Donnacha Gilmore holds possession under pressure from Greenlough’s Conor Mullan at Ballymaguigan on Saturday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2144GS – 042

“I know, it has been a crazy year,” laughs Donncha after the Brian Ogs’ 0-9 to 0-8 victory over Greenlough, “After watching these lads get so close every year and then, on my first year with the senior team, to achieve this is remarkable.

“It was one of the quickest games I’ve ever played but it’s always like that way when you get to a final. It all went so fast but it’s just great to get the result over the line, you can see what it means to everyone.

“Greenlough went two points up just after half-time but we always thought we could do it if we just stuck to the game-plan, we always thought if we did that we could come through in the end.”

So just how does a first county medal compare to a first All Ireland medal?

Steelstown players and coaches celebrate winning the Intermediate Football Championship trophy on Saturday last in Ballymaguigan. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2144GS – 036

“In a way, this is just as special,” smiles Donnacha, “I have been playing with these boys for years, my whole life really. It means a whole lot and especially today, with the weekend that’s in it and Brian Ogs’ anniversary, it makes it very special for everyone.”

Not that it has been all plain sailing for young Gilmore. It was February 2020 when the rising Brian Ogs star suffered the cruciate ligament damage doctors warned would sideline him for the best part of 12 months and seemingly destroy his hopes of a role with the Derry minors that season. With the Ulster Championship starting against Armagh only weeks later, Gilmore resigned himself to the role of frustrated spectator but ironically Covid changed everything, delaying the championship and allowing all his hard work to return to fitness to pay off in spectacular style for both club and county this year.

Yet, for all his success, there’s still a debate to be about the best footballer in the Gilmore house. Indeed, Donnacha’s wasn’t even the first county medal to enter their Crawford Square home this season. That accolade belongs to older sister, Niamh, part of the Brian Ogs’ Ladies team who are current Derry senior champions and preparing for an Ulster Intermediate final date with Kinawly this Saturday. And Donncha will be there cheering her on.

“Yeah, I’m not the first to win a county medal this year, Niamh did and they just won their Ulster semi-final which is great. It’s an added inspiration to have her to look up to but sure we’ll see who gets further in Ulster now,” he laughed.