Croke Park contenders brimming with hope
Hit hard by recession, Donegal puts its woes on hold as expectations of the return of the Sam Maguire cup reach an all-time high
TWENTY-FOUR hours or so to go and some people in Donegal, as they exit the county for Dublin, are getting nervous.
“I have butterflies in my stomach,” admits Frank Galligan, a poet, writer, broadcaster and columnist in the Donegal Democrat. “Being favourites doesn’t suit Donegal.”
Galligan reckons Donegal under the creative but strict tutelage of manager Jim McGuinness will win with a few points to spare. He notes reports that many in the county will be broke after the final tomorrow but says that many are broke already. “They have to win to keep the high going for another while; after that, there is going to be a big deflation. At the moment though, it is all wonderful.”
It’s not just about football. The opinion in Donegal is that while the county saw some of the Celtic Tiger investment, it did not get anything close to its fair share. It’s suffering badly now with the recession, and that’s plain to see driving through the towns and villages of the county: the green and gold flags and bunting cannot disguise how hard Donegal has been hit by the economic crash.
“If we could just bottle whatever hormone has been released in the county by getting to the All-Ireland final . . .” muses Galligan.
But some of that hormone is already in the general system. Take a town like Ballyshannon in the south of the county, a place whose experience of the recession is paralleled in many other parts of Donegal.
“The whole county has gone stone mad,” says Barry O’Neill, a local Fine Gael councillor who is a sports producer for RTÉ radio. “It’s like a honeymoon away from the recession – the cost we will deal with when it is all over; it is extraordinary.”
Eleven years ago O’Neill started the Rory Gallagher festival, an annual tribute to the guitarist who was born in the town, even if some people more readily associate him with Cork. It was a simple idea, in a sense stolen from the Munster capital, and now it’s worth €2.5 million annually to Ballyshannon.
O’Neill says that in the past decade or so the town has lost about 700 manufacturing and construction jobs.
Yet O’Neill and many others in Ballyshannon have shown ingenuity and drive in devising ideas that keep some money flowing into the local area.
Terry McIntyre is an accountant who with several others is involved in the Backing Ballyshannon project, a community-based think tank trying to generate ideas and jobs. They are already planning for a festival next August to link in with The Gathering, the national plan to lure some of the Irish diaspora back to holiday in Ireland.