Leo McLoone with Sam Maguire on the way home in 2012. Picture by Pat Murphy/SPORTSFILE
Donegal All-Ireland winner Leo McLoone is still going strong with Naomh Conaill but he is into his second season away from lining up for Donegal.
After 12 illustrious years in the Donegal shirt the five-time Ulster Senior Championship winner called time on his inter-county career at the end of 2019..
He turns 32 this year and is now facing into his second championship season away from the county scene and on the eve of Donegal’s championship opener with Down, the Naomh Conaill clubman does admit he does miss playing for the county.
“Yeah I do miss it,” he said this week. “You are always going to miss it this time of the year at the start of the championship.
The 2012 All-Ireland winner who made his senior championship in 2009, against Carlow in Ballybofey, a first round qualifier.
John Joe Doherty was the Donegal manager. McLoone had been drafted into the squad the year before by Brian McIver.
Doherty shook up the selection after losing to Antrim in the first round of the championship.
“But it is not just a couple of months,” McLoone added of the level of commitment needed to be involved in an inter-county set-up. “If you are in a county panel you are training from January and maybe even before it.
“It is easy to miss it now but the commitment is unbelievable and I just keep it up and that is why I decided to call it a day.”
Donegal face the Down this coming Sunday in Newry in the preliminary round of the Ulster championship.
“I don’t know much about Down,” admitted the former boy wonder who won a Donegal senior championship with Naomh Conaill, at 16 back in 2005, and played over 100 games for Donegal.
His trophy chest in Glenties also boasts of an Ulster minor and U21 championship medal. And is the holder of four Donegal senior championships. He came as a sub in the final. He was only 16 and he won the last in 2019.
“But they are always a tight team in the championship,” McLoone continued of Down. “They are always tough and I think it will be a tight game. It is all about getting over Down and moving on and building momentum in the championship.
Momentum is a great thing in the Ulster championship. Hopefully we can get all those players that were out injured back. “I don’t know what the story is on the injuries front but I’m sure Michael Murphy will be hard to hold back in the championship.
“Hopefully, they can get Michael back on the pitch and grind out a result in that first game. That is the big one. Momentum is everything.”
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