Steelstown rising star Donncha Gilmore believes dream season can end with All Ireland glory
STEELSTOWN Brian Óg’s chairman Paul O’Hea says he can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for teenage talent Donncha Gilmore who played such an integral role in the city club’s historic run to Ulster Championship glory.
Described by O’Hea as a ‘Rolls Royce of a player’, the versatile 18 year-old has enjoyed a season like no other. Yet back in February 2020 things didn’t look quite so bright for the Crawford Square native after he suffered cruciate ligament damage which threatened to keep him out of action for almost an entire year.
Expecting to miss out in Derry Minor’s 2020 Ulster Championship campaign, Gilmore got a reprieve and his feelings of frustration and disappointment were replaced by relief and renewed hope as Covid forced its postponement. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.
Returning to full fitness, Steelstown’s rising star went on to help Martin Boyle’s young Oak Leaf side get their hands on provincial silverware for the first time since 2017 after defeating holders Monaghan in the decider at Healy Park. An incredible All Ireland Final victory over Kerry in Tullamore last July followed to ensure his dream year continued.
With confidence soaring, Gilmore went on to enjoy club success with Steelstown who got their hands on a first ever county title at the fourth time of asking with victory over Greenlough.
And Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate Football Club Championship win over Tyrone champions, Moortown kept alive the youngster’s hopes of capping an incredible season with a potential Croke Park appearance.
Modestly he claims he’s ‘lucky’ to have enjoyed so much success so soon after his return from injury but belief in the Steelstown ranks is growing and he reckons the men in blue and gold are good enough to go all the way and clinch an All Ireland title.
“I’ve just been really lucky the way things have worked out for me,” he said.
When asked how much the Ulster title meant to him, he responded with his trademark grin: “It’s not just for the boys, it’s for the city too. It really is huge.
“And we really do (believe they can go all the way). We had our eyes set on Croke Park from the very start,” he admitted. “We keep winning these matches and I really do think we could go all the way.”
The Pairc Brid outfit will come up against either Kerry or Clare opposition and a sizable challenge awaits whoever they get.
Should the season end in their next outing, it’s already been unforgettable and O’Hea believes the ‘sky’s the limit’ for Steelstown’s young talent like Gilmore.
The 2002 All Ireland Minor champion has been ‘amazed’ at how Gilmore has established himself as a key player in Hugh McGrath’s young team and can’t wait to see how he develops further over the coming months.
“Donncha is a Rolls Royce of a player,” said O’Hea. “I just love watching him play. He has everything, He’s athletic; he can cover ground. He can nullify attacking players without looking like he’s doing a man-marking job.
“He has a good positional sense and is always in the right place and gets his hands in. He’s just excellent. The improvement in him this year has been phenomenal. From his first championship match against Limavady where he was just finding his feet, every match since he’s just come on and on.
“Even when I think of the Castledawson match which was a tough match, the last 10 minutes Donncha and Oran McMenamin were two of the people who wanted the ball all the time. It’s refreshing to see someone so young who nothing fazes him and he just keeps going. The sky’s the limit for Donncha. He’s still very young but his improvement over the course of the year has been amazing and we’re really lucky to have him.
“He can play in a number of positions and never seems to get tired. He’s a great lad too. He’s doing a lot of coaching in the schools alongside Neil (Forester) so all round he’s a really good footballer, a really good young fella and I’m excited to see what happens with Donncha over the next year or so.”