Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan unopposed for vacant Donegal GAA chair

Mary Coughlan served as Tánaiste in a Fianna Fail-led government from 2008 to 2011
Mary Coughlan served as Tánaiste in a Fianna Fail-led government from 2008 to 2011 Mary Coughlan served as Tánaiste in a Fianna Fail-led government from 2008 to 2011

Former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan looks set to become the first ever female county chairperson in Donegal. 

St Naul’s club secretary  Coughlan is the only candidate nominated for the chair made vacant by the outgoing Fergus McGee who stood down after a year in office after a turbulent 12 months in the O’Donnell county. 

Coughlan has confirmed that she is interested in the post after current Ulster Council representative and fellow club person Cieran Kelly confirmed that he was withdrawing from the race yesterday. 

This was followed on Thursdday by the withdrawal of current Central Council delegate and former county chairman Sean Dunnion, leaving the field free for Coughlan. 

St Naul’s clubman Kelly had been nominated for the role alongside his clubmate Coughlan and  Dunnion. 

Kelly is an ex- Donegal GAA treasurer, and hasd confirmed on X that he would not be standing for election at the county convention, which takes place in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey on December 13. 

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Kelly stated: "My name won’t be going forward to @officialdonegal County Convention for the role of Chairperson. Whoever is elected will have my full support.” 

Coughlan is a former Tánaiste and Minister for Agriculture as well as serving as Minister for Eductation and Health.

She has been an active secretary for her club for the past 11 years. 

Her late father Cathal and uncles Clement and Austin were all involved in the GAA in Donegal. 

She is the first woman to be nominated for the chair in Donegal. Noreen Doherty became the first-ever county female county secretary in Ireland when she took that position in Donegal in 1991.

Coughlan is noted for her direct, practical down-to-earth approach to matters and her nomination has added some extra interest in a convention that promises to be one of the liveliest ever as all positions, bar secretary, vice chair and assistant secretary are being contested. 

Jim McGuinness watches on as his native Naomh Conaill beat Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal decider
Jim McGuinness watches on as his native Naomh Conaill beat Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal decider Jim McGuinness watches on as his native Naomh Conaill beat Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal decider

She was a Fianna Fail TD in south Donegal from 1987 until she lost her seat in 2011, and both her late father Cathal and uncle Clement were also TDs for the area. 

Donegal has come through a turbulent period with affairs in the county being currently overseen by a three person committee and the county has been told by Croke Park that it must also appoint an Operations Officer. 

The turbulence began earlier this year with the well-publicised spat with Karl Lacey leaving the coaching Academy .

Team boss, Paddy Carr, who was a late appointee, resigned amid player power last spring and there has been more recent controversy over the appointments of a Children’s Officer.    

Outgoing chairperson Fergus McGee has already confirmed that he is stepping down from the position  

Meanwhile, Dunnion has another year to run as Central Council delegate and is focusing on staying there as he will be opposed by ex-Donegal GAA great Martin McHugh and ex Central Council delegate Niall Erskin.  

Kelly is also nominated for one of the two Ulster Council representative positions. He is a current Ulster Council rep on the Donegal County Board. 

But Coughlan will have quite a big task to restore the shattered confidence in the administration of GAA in the county. 

However, many in the county would be energised with all the new blood coming on board and the prospect of Coughlan at the head of administration and Jim McGuinness back in charge of the senior team. 

And it is believed that her vast experience of operating at the highest levels in Irish government will stand her in good stead in her native county. 

There will also be new faces in the race for the key post of treasurer, as incumbent Alan Boyd’s term is up. 

Among the candidates here is Paul McGonigle, a former member of Jim McGuinness’s back room team who ran Fergus McGee very close in the contest for the chair last year. 

The other candidates are ex-treasurer Grace Boyle, Frankie Doherty and ex-chairperson, Mick McGrath. 

PRO sees a straight fight between former PRO Ed Byrne, Sinead Breen and Sorcha Ni Gallchoir. 

The full list of nominations are: 

Chair: Mary Coughlan; 

Vice-Chair: David McLoone  

Secretary: Declan Martin, Mary Kelly  

Asst Sec: Mary Kelly  

Treasurer: Frankie Doherty, Grace Boyle, Mick McGrath, Paul McGonigle  

Asst Treas: Frankie Doherty, Anthony Molloy, Brendan Kelly Paul McGonigle  

Coaching Officer: Michael McGeehin, Damian Diver Paul McGonigle.  

Irish and Culture: Caitriona Ui Shuibhne, Sorcha Ní Gallchóir.  

PRO: Ed Byrne, Sinead Breen Sorcha Ní Gallchoir.  

Hurling Officer: Cormac Hartnett  

Ulster Council (2): Cieran Kelly, Alan Boyd, Andy Doherty, Ciaran McKenna, Frankie Doherty, Liam McElhinney, Martin McHugh, Michael Murphy (Snr) William Doogan.  

Central Council: Sean Dunnion, Martin McHugh, Niall Erskine  

Delegates to Ulster Convention (1): Andy Doherty, Caitríona Ní Shuibhne, David McLoone  

Delegates to National Congress (1): Edward Molloy, Martin McHugh Mick McGrath.