The old golf shop was flooded, clubs were for sale, and Aisling Mhic Cumhaill had spotted an opportunity.
It was just after her Confirmation and she saved up her money, went to Dundrum and purchased her first set. It may have just been a half-set but it was more than enough to plant the seed.
Mhic Cumhaill had her first taste of golf and she was ready to make it a lifetime obsession. And together with her passion for Gaeilge, she is probably in the most idyllic position in the world right now, President of Galf Chumann Ghaoth Dobhair in their Centenary year.
“It’s a big big honour for me but there is no one person that runs the club,” said Mhic Cumhaill.
“There is a huge support from both the female and the male committee. It just shows how progressive the club is.
“This is just the second year and it is a two-year term. We are celebrating our Centenary at the club and it just shows how inclusive the club is and how respectful they are of all members.
“They are progressive and not afraid to do something different or try something else.”
Mhic Cumhaill is originally from Balinteer in Dublin, however her father is a native of Gaoth Dobhair and the family spent much of their summer holidays in Donegal.
Shortly after her first golfing purchase, she was off to Leopardstown to learn the basics at their driving range – Mhic Cumhaill would soon be hitting hole-in-ones in Woodbrook.
But Gaoth Dobhair had a special place in her heart, she got married there to Colmán Mac Cumhaill and ended up becoming a member in the local golf club after she relocated.
Her day-to-day sees her working for Údarás na Gaeltachta where she is an education and training officer, another opportunity to explore her passion for her native tongue.
“We look after all the Gaeltacht areas. We work third level institutions and address the needs of client companies. We work with junior achievement Ireland. There is a whole wrack of stuff that is involved in it,” said Mhic Cumhaill.
“I would be very passionate about the language, it is very important and no more than in the golf club. It would be one of our big priorities that we speak Irish and use the language in our meetings.
“We look after the young people with the Galf Óige and it’s important that you speak Irish. You want to have it as a spoken language. Where you play sport through the medium of Irish and you are also promoting it then within the club through conducting meetings in Irish and speaking the language.”
Gaoth Dobhair introduced Galf Óige in the 1980s in order to get more young people playing the game. It goes from April through to September and Mhic Cumhaill has teamed up with Declan McBride to deliver the programme in the last few years. The children receive lessons as well as a weekly nine-hole competition every Sunday.
Again it combines her two passions, Gaeilge and golf, and she is determined to see another generation of player coming through the ranks at Gaoth Dobhair just like their most recent export, Padraig O’Dochartaigh, who plays on the Irish amateur circuit.
“It works very well, they seem to enjoy it too,” said Mhic Cumhaill.
“We would have always encouraged everyone to speak the language. Everybody would go to all-Irish schools, they all speak Irish. I speak Irish to all of the kids, definitely.”
But Galf Chumann Ghaoth Dobhair has an even bigger role to play in the future of golf in the region, and by installing their first ever female President last year they have provided hope to so many young girls across the region.
Mhic Cumhaill never had that female golfing role model in a similar position when she was younger but she has broken a glass ceiling now.
“It’s really important,” said Mhic Cumhaill.
“Then they see that women should be playing golf. It just shows that the club is progressing and inclusive. The golf is for females and males. When you see someone playing, if Aisling can do it why can’t I go down and play.
“It’s a bit of craic but I think it’s really important too. Just for the younger ones, the golf is hard because you are competing. Even though I have my own kids, you are always going to be competing with Gaelic and soccer. They always take priority for a lot of kids.
“You have to work around that and have a competition sometimes and then up training. Just to keep everyone involved. The important thing is, even when you get the few lessons and things you always have it even if you stopped for a few years. I think it is important to try and encourage people to go down when they are younger.
“When I was playing there was no other teenagers playing at that time in Gaoth Dobhair. That was just it. To be fair, the Ladies now are very very good to me. They always looked after me and took me out. I was always encouraged.
“That is important too, maybe at that time, now with getting clubs and things it is easier than it was. The more people who are playing. Even golf clubs down there, when I played and I went to Trinity there was a few girls who played at a decent enough level but there wasn’t a lot.”
And in such an historic year for the club, Mhic Cumhaill understands that she is a central figure but she won’t always be able to drive things forward from the hotseat.
However, she knows Gaoth Dobhair has a promising future ahead and she wants to build the culture to keep fostering the stars of tomorrow.
“We are always trying to attract new members and get new people to join,” said Mhic Cumhaill.
“You need to have that steady flow of members. This year is our centenary year and such a great success. It just shows what a committed club we are and how well we work together.
“The junior golf is really important because if we haven’t got people coming up through the ranks that’s your heartbeat. You need to keep encouraging that. Just keep the course in good shape and that.
“We definitely have a good strong heartbeat, good committees and people who work really really well together. Not just me, there is so many people who do so much voluntary work for the club.
“Without their support I wouldn’t be able to be where I am. You need all those people who do that work. That’s from the both women’s and the men’s committee.”