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From DCU attacker to the rock in the Leitrim defence - Donal Wrynn on managing expectations.

Still only 20 the converted full-back is drawing comparisons with some of the county’s all time greats.

Donal Wrynn established himself as the DCU Sigerson cup full-back this year.
Donal Wrynn established himself as the DCU Sigerson cup full-back this year.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LEITRIM HAVE A proud tradition of producing top quality full-backs, and thanks to the ingenuity of manager Sean Hagan that looks set to continue.

Before this year Donal Wrynn had never lined out any further back than the centre of the park.

An underage midfielder who drew the attention of the DCU GAA academy with some stand out performances for his county minor team. A year on he would win a freshers All-Ireland with the Dublin university, still eligible as a minor he excelled in a midfield role with Galway’s Tom Flynn.

In this year’s O’Byrne cup DCU manager Niall Moyna saw a place for the 6’3″ 20 year-old at number 15, as he started all four games for the star studded Sigerson panel.

So when Sean Hagen took over the Leitrim senior team this year, and decided to select Wrynn at full-back, more than a few eyebrows were raised. And it wasn’t just the supporters who were double checking the team list.

“I hated it because I thought I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I think it’s definitely grown on me over the last few months,” he says.

“When Sean Hagan came in to manage Leitrim initially he told me from the off he wanted to try me out at full back. Even though I was playing at midfield with my club and I always thought I was a midfielder, and I was even playing corner forward for DCU.

“But yeah, when he came in he just decided that he wanted to try me there and it’s just kind of stuck since.”

Declan O'Mahony and Philly McMahon with Donal Wrynn and Davy Byrne At 6'3 Donal is well capable of fielding ball with anyone. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Wrynn has gone from strength to strength in the position, starting all but one of their seven league games on the edge of his square. He also started in all the FBD league games as the county won their second piece of silverware in 20 years.

Wrynn’s performances at full-back even did enough to convince Niall Moyna to start him there for their three Sigerson Cup matches, without him having ever even played in the position for the university before.

Seamus Quinn Colin Holmes and Cormac McAnallen 29/6/2002 DIGITAL Seamus Quinn was the county's last All-Star. Source: INPHO

Wrynn follows a long line of cult heroes who have worn the green and gold number three jersey. Most recently John McKeon had been a consistent performer for much of the last ten years, while before him the likes Michael McGuinness have established themselves both in and outside of the county as top quality defenders.

But in the biggest possible compliment to the young man, there’s one famous Leitrim full-back who Wrynn is most notably being compared with – the county’s last All-Star Seamus Quinn.

“I suppose I might be a bit of a different type of player and I wouldn’t want to be compared to someone like Seamus yet now, it’s a bit early,” he says.

“But yeah when we played minor Michael McGuiness was one of the selectors, then there’s obviously Seamus Quinn, there’s Dermot Reynolds, and then John McKeon recently too. They would have all been known down the years to be top class defenders, so I suppose I have a lot to live up to in that regard.”

The man who led his county to their most famous of victories in 1994, Quinn was another huge presence in the full back line, equally capable of comfortably carrying the ball out of defence. Or even lining out in midfield and beyond, as he did in the county’s last win over Roscommon in 2000.

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Source: James Kiernan/YouTube

Leitrim face Roscommon later today having already beaten them in this year’s FBD league final, the game in which supporters began to take notice of their new full-back.

That day he marked St Brigid’s Senan Kilbride, and the pair will exchange pleasantries once more in the Hyde at 3pm.

“To be honest I haven’t thought about it too much, I’ve been pretty stressed out about the exams.

“But the championship will be totally different to FBD league, so I wouldn’t pay much heed on the FBD. We’ll just see how it plans out.

For the young man who only turned twenty in March, he’ll be hoping to one day replicate the success of the legend of 94’ – who’s standard he is now expected to match.

DD Donal is also an All-Ireland handball champion.

But as Leitrim won this year’s minor league, and his u21 team reached the provincial decider, things are beginning to look up in the county.

“It is definitely exciting for people in Leitrim to look forward to coming to games with a chance of winning, which in the past mightn’t have been the case. People are more positive and optimistic and people are talking about the teams. There’s a bit of a buzz, and when one team succeeds it leads on to the next.”

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