Donegal: up here it's truly different
IT IS hard to imagine that a single Donegal Facebook user wasn’t tagged in a photo circulated in January containing a toppled garden chair above the tagline: “Donegal Earthquake 2012: We Will Rebuild”.
Yes, just in case you missed it – and there were people in Buncrana who slept through it – an earthquake measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale saw the earth move in Donegal in January. But that was far from the only strange event that occurred in 2012 in a county that once sported the tourism tagline: Donegal. Up here it’s different.
January began the apparition of green skies over the northern coast caused by the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, and locals near Buncrana reported a tornado in June. However locals and tourists were perhaps most surprised at the unseasonably good weather this summer, much to the delight of the county dwellers who never missed an opportunity to say, “Well, it’s lovely up here” when talking to migrants to the capital on days that it poured rain in Dublin.
There were, however, some storm clouds overhead and the county was home to a few controversies over the course of the year. It voted No in the fiscal treaty referendum and the children’s referendum; the latter was the source of much debate nationally.
In April, An Taisce named Donegal as the county with the worst planning record in the State although the council later defended its record, saying the league table appeared “unbalanced, ambiguous and biased against rural and peripheral areas of the country”.
Nobody could deny that Donegal is indeed peripheral. Tucked away in the northwest it is often classified as the forgotten county, as an anecdote published on the Irish Times letters page earlier this year demonstrates. Deirdre Keane wrote of her father’s amazement when she told him that his local Donegal parish was on a map painted on a wall in the Doges palace in the 17th century. He replied: “Imagine, the Venetians knew about us in the 1700s and Dublin only discovered us in the 1960s“!
But there was no way Dublin or any other county could ignore the meteoric rise of Donegal’s GAA football team over the past two years.
Under the management of Glenties man Jim McGuinness the team rose to national notoriety in 2011 for its “negative” football style, particularly drawing the criticism of Pat Spillane. Just over a year later they were crowned All-Ireland Champions and drowning in plaudits, including eight GAA All Stars.
The county’s second-ever All-Ireland title may have been 20 years in the making but the people of Donegal hadn’t forgotten how to celebrate .
But ask anyone in the north west what song most encapsulates Donegal’s 2012 championship and they will almost undoubtedly sing you a few bars of Jimmy’s Winning Matches and so, as a rollercoaster of a year comes to an end, there is perhaps no better man to quote than the song’s eponymous hero.
“I never once thought we were going to get beaten. I couldn’t go there,” McGuinness said following Donegal’s win, giving a glimpse of the positivity that led to its success. “I kept believing what we were going to do and I kept working towards that and focusing on that. You get demotivated by negatives and that is something we have to focus on ourselves. It’s just so important that the visual in your own mind is positive all the time. You just work towards it.”