Kevin McDonnell hopes to embark on another Sigerson adventure
By Cian O’Connell
A persistent hip injury means the highly regarded Kevin McDonnell isn’t able to commit to Sligo duty in 2019, but the Castleconnor clubman remains eager to enjoy his last Sigerson Cup campaign with NUIG.
Last year McDonnell defied medical advice to perform for Sligo, but a difficult decision to step away from the inter-county game has been made.
Former Sligo boss Cathal Corey, so impressed by McDonnell’s grit and determination to return following surgery, installed McDonnell as the Yeats captain at the age of 23.
“I had to step away, just because of the commitment side of things, I can't do the level of training required for inter-county football,” McDonnell explains.
“I struggled last year with it so I couldn't commit this year. With the Sigerson this year it is looser because I don't need to train as often or as hard, I still need to be in good shape, but there is more freedom, it isn't as big of a commitment.”
McDonnell relished the opportunity to lead Sligo out in the 2018 Championship. “It was fantastic, I'd give anything for that Sligo jersey,” McDonnell says.
“I really enjoyed playing and by the medics advice I probably shouldn't have played last year, but I really enjoyed last year. It was an absolute honour to be captain, it was really enjoyable so I have no regrets over that at all.”
McDonnell, studying for a PhD in Computer Science, is hopeful that leaving the inter-county arena may help to extend his time playing for Castleconnor.
“That is what I'm hoping for even though I will play it as it comes,” McDonnell states. “I'm not sure what my situation will be after this - that is the idea. I don't want to stop playing football at the minute, I'm just trying to prolong it for as long as I can.”
NUIG, who face St Mary’s, Belfast in an attractive Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup first round tie next week, are managed by former Mayo forward Maurice Sheridan with McDonnell grateful for his assistance.
“I have to manage my load a lot,” McDonnell adds. “Maurice is good to me in fairness, I do miss the odd session, I can't give the commitment other lads can, but I'm managing as best as I can and I'm enjoying myself.
“I will be honest, it is frustrating obviously because you can't do the things maybe you would like to do. As long as you can get out on the pitch to enjoy yourself, that is the most important thing.”
Throughout his stint Corribside McDonnell has thoroughly involved playing Gaelic Football with NUIG in the Sigerson.
“Definitely, it is really enjoyable to play in,” McDonnell states. “There are no strict rules, it is just about going out to express yourself, enjoying yourself which is what football should be.
“I think the Sigerson is the most enjoyable level of football to play at. The quality is there, but also the enjoyment because you are playing with guys your own age, your own mates, it is a brilliant set-up to be in.
“You get feedback about what other teams are doing, different styles of play with different players. It is a really interesting and enjoyable set-up to be in.”
Without a Sigerson title since 2003 NUIG have made significant strides in recent years with Chairman Enda Fallon and Secretary John Brennan working hard behind the scenes and McDonnell, also Club Treasurer, has noticed the improvements.
“This is my fifth year and in the last few years they have made a great push inside the club to try to promote the game in the college,” McDonnell acknowledges.
“It had fallen down, we have a great history. I know Maurice our manager played on great teams down through the years, even in the early noughties NUIG won the Sigerson, but in the last few years it has started to pick up again. Hopefully we can push on to bigger and better things in the college.”
Mary’s, who triumphed in the competition two years ago beating NUIG along the way, will provide a stern test in Dangan according to McDonnell. “They beat us up outside Belfast, they had an excellent side that year. By the sounds of things they have an excellent side again this year so it will be a tough game.
“Damien (Comer) and Sean Kelly are big losses, Adam Gallagher too. We have good young lads coming through, we have held on to a good chunk of the team from last year. We are hoping to get a run like last year, but first of all we have to get over Mary's.
“We have tough opposition, it is one of the toughest draws we could have got in the first round. We are looking forward to the challenge, they are a great side, obviously we have history with them so we are looking forward to it.”