Tell us a little about you.
My name is Ronan Donnelly. I am currently doing my A levels at St Joseph’s Grammar School in Donaghmore. I am studying A Level Biology, Sports Science and Food and Nutrition. I play football for Donaghmore and I was recently the joint Vice Captain of the Tyrone Minors who reached the All–Ireland Final. I am the Captain of the school McLarnon Cup team.
What inspired you to begin playing football?
There is a strong culture of football in my family. Over the years there has been many fantastic footballers in my family and it was this legacy that inspired me from a young age to want to play at a competitive level. My parents have always been a real encouragement and very supportive of me and I think this has sustained my interest.
Who in the current Tyrone squad do you most look up to and why?
I look up to all of the players as I think they have just accomplished something unbelievable. The Tyrone panel this year faced so many challenges but they showed real commitment and determination. They all inspire me. If I had to pick one it would be Peter Harte. Peter was my teacher in Primary School.
What is your greatest achievement at club and county level?
In terms of county level, reaching the All-Ireland minor football final in Croke Park was my greatest achievement. I enjoyed every minute of the journey and couldn’t have asked to experience it with anyone other than my amazing teammates. It was also a great honour to serve my county as joint Vice Captain in an All-Ireland minor final. For my club, Donaghmore, my greatest achievement is reaching both minor grade one League and Championship finals. We recently won the league final, and I am hopeful that the team is strong enough to secure the club’s first grade one championship since 1967.
What are your hopes for the future?
The achievement of the senior panel this year has really inspired me to work hard to become the best player I can be. I want to keep progressing and strive for continuous personal improvement. Peter Harte has encouraged me to work towards securing an All-Ireland Final victory one day with Tyrone. In the short term my goal is to work hard to make sure I secure a place on the Under 20 squad in the coming years. Longer term I aspire to eventually progress on to the Tyrone senior panel and hopefully lift Sam!
What is your greatest achievement with school football?
St Joseph’s has played a massive role in developing me as a player. There is a real culture of GAA sports in the school and the staff are so supportive. Every day after school teachers are out coaching teams in their own time. That gives the students a real morale boost knowing that the teachers are behind you 100%. Six students from my school made the panel for the minor all Ireland final – I think that is unbelievable! I have been so lucky to achieve much success with the school team. Winning the McDevitt cup in Year 10 was certainly a highlight.
What are your hopes for football in St Joseph’s Grammar School this year?
St Joseph’s is housing some of the most promising talent in Tyrone GAA at the moment. I have high hopes this year for our school team. I feel like we are one of the top contenders in the McLarnon cup this year and know that the strength of players we have means we can lift the cup.
What advice would 18-year-old Ronan give to 11-year-old Ronan?
That’s a difficult question. I can’t over state how good a school St Joseph’s is. I can remember being so nervous on my first day. Looking back there was really no need. St Joseph’s nurtures every student as an individual. Over the years I have been supported so much- not just academically- but more important pastorally. I would tell 11-year-old Ronan to have trust and faith in all the teachers because they genuinely have your best interests at heart. I would tell him to enjoy every single minute because they really are the best days of your life. I can’t believe those days are about to come to an end for me. The mantra in our school is ‘be kind, be kind, be kind’. This has been drummed into us since the first day of Year 8. I would tell 11-year-old Ronan to not only be kind to others but also be kind to himself. I would tell 11-year-old Ronan to take every opportunity to get involved in extra-curricular activities in school because these develop you as a person. I would also tell him to work hard to make sure he balances his sport and hobbies with his school work because one benefits the other.