Hills are alive as carnival of goodwill continues
For the players, events became kind of chaotic after that. Since McGuinness took over, they have become accustomed to precision and organisation and things happening on time. Now everyone, including the management, was thrown into a carnival of goodwill and a homecoming schedule which was utterly impossible to follow.
McGowan admits he felt for the players: they had basically been living out of whatever bag they had packed before the All-Ireland final. It was wonderful but it was gruelling. They visited every second town in the county and made it into their final port of call hours after they were expected. It was two in the morning when Jim McGuinness finally brought the Sam Maguire back into his hometown of Glenties, where the atmosphere was phenomenal.
“I missed Ardara but I believe that Patrick McGrath was fabulous . . . his mother was on the stage and the words he said were very emotional and heartfelt and they went down a treat. He’s an outstanding young lad anyway.
“But I have seen this squad now over the past few years and they are so respectful of the support and of what is done for them. No grumpiness. They are a great group of people, from a county board point of view. Magheragallon was tremendous in Gweedore. There were tremendous scenes.”
The tour continued until Thursday evening. Last night, the Donegal side were due to appear on the Late Late Show and this weekend, they are involved in club championship games – the game between current county champions Glenswilly and Gweedore is the pick of the bunch.
Since the final whistle blew in Croke Park, they haven’t had a second to themselves. The bigger question is what now. McGowan knows more than most of how easily the glory days slip into the past again. The crucial thing for Donegal is to use the interest to harness a consistent under-age programme. “We are going to have to look at that. I know that after 1992 the game evolved greatly in Inishowen. There were some areas we didn’t make hay when the sun shone. And I think now that we have to promote the game,” he says.
“The numbers of young people following this team are huge anyway. The number of young people trying to exchange Hogan and Cusack tickets for the Hill last Sunday was phenomenal – the Hill seemed to be the place to be. And at all the homecomings, the numbers of young people had to be seen to be believed. And we have to use that positively.”
It starts this morning at the St Eunan’s club grounds in Letterkenny, when the Sam Maguire will be in attendance for an attempt to break a world record for the biggest ever attendance at a GAA training session.
The Hills are alive.