The passing this week of football legend Dave Mackay has rekindled the memories of supporters in Donegal who will recall his visit to the county almost 40 years ago as manager of Derby County.
The English club played Finn Harps in the UEFA Cup first round in September 1976 and famously recorded their biggest ever victory in the first leg when they trounced Harps 12-0 at the Baseball Ground.
The late Barney Doherty, my father, was the proud owner of a club tie presented to him by Mackay and the Derby County chairman, Bill Stevenson.
Barney was Honorary President of Letterkenny Rovers and received the memento after Derby County trained at Rovers’ ground, Leckview Park, prior to their second leg tie with Finn Harps.
The club secretary at that time was Dessie Kelly and he still remembers Derby’s visit quite clearly. “I remember talking to Dave Mackay and some of the players. I think they probably stayed at the old Ballyraine Hotel and used our facilities at Leckview for training,” he said.
“Dave Mackay was a legend and I’d followed his career when he left Hearts and played on the famous double-winning team at Tottenham. He then went on to play with Derby before managing them and it was a pleasure to meet him,” he said.
Derby County won the second leg of their UEFA tie with Harps 4-1 at Finn Park. They went out in the next round against Greek side AEK Athens.
And after an indifferent run of results in the league, Mackay was sacked by Derby two months later. He had replaced Brian Clough as County manager in 1973 and guided Derby County to the league title in 1975.