THIRTY years have now passed since a teenage Manus McFadden took it upon himself to arrange a meeting of those who had more than a passing interest in Gaelic games in Glenswilly.
At the time, their young men played their football either with St Eunan’s of Letterkenny, Glenfin or Termon, the three clubs whose influence splintered the parish. McFadden, though, felt there was enough reason to compose a team of their own.
So one night at Foxhall, McFadden was joined by Joe Kelly, Roger McDaid, Fr Eamon Crossan, Finbar Glackin, Jimmy Joe McGinley as the late Eddie McDevitt took the chair and Donegal GAA soon had a newborn club.
“I used to go to Termon and play but I spent more time watching as there were no underage teams there,” McFadden recalled this week. “I even remember when I was a bit older taking children into O’Donnell Park to play U-10. There were lots of lads who were not getting their chance with other clubs and I just felt we had enough players to form our own club so that’s what we did.”
McFadden was player-manager in 1982 as Glenswilly played in the Shield competition and the year afterwards, the club’s first full season, he continued in the role despite being aged just 21.
However, there wasn’t too much happening in a rural outpost like Glenswilly at the time, let alone Ireland and in 1984, McFadden, like thousands of his contemporaries, made the trip across the Atlantic.
Boston was the next port of call, a new world. McFadden probably didn’t know it at the time but he would spend his next 23 years in Massachusetts.
Of course there was the occasional reason to scurry home, like when Glenswilly won the Junior B championship with a one-point win over Naomh Columba in Ballybofey the same year as he departed. Under the management of the late Peader Toner, McFadden scored 1-1 having started the day at centre-field and concluding it at wing-forward.
His brother Peter also scored a goal and a point during a rough and tumble contest in which Phelim Molloy was stretchered off, while John McGinley spent three days in hospital.
It was a joyous occasion for the club he had helped to found but 10 days back at home were enough and McFadden was soon back in Boston working in carpentry or construction.
That same year Galway Boston won the Junior All-American championship and between their seniors and juniors there were a host of Donegal men, including Pauric McDaid, Cathal Roarty, Paul Carr and McFadden’s future brother-in-law and current Roscommon manager, Des Newton.
Two years later, in 1986, McFadden was part of the St Colmcille’s team what won the Boston championship on the weekend of ‘Labor Day’ at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton.
“It was a bit like Glenswilly,” McFadden adds of Donegal Boston’s formation. “There were a lot of good players and a lot of Donegal players so we decided instead of having them playing with other teams why not set-up a club ourselves? That’s what we did.”
Donegal Boston’s founding members back in 1988 were Jackie and Ricky Rush from Castlefin, Eamonn McGinley of St Michael’s, Ballyshannon native Patrick O’Malley-Daly, McFadden, Francie Houston from Glenties, Aeneas McClafferty of Downings and Fintown’s Paddy McDevitt.
McFadden was part of the successful Donegal Boston junior team of the same year, alongside the likes of Martin Doherty and Stephen McKelvey from Glenties, Aodh Ruadh’s O’Malley-Daly and Declan Bonner of Na Rossa.
In 1993 there was a victory in the Intermediate Championship in Boston and then the All-Americans but with McFadden, who also togged out in goal, requiring back surgery he soon swapped management for playing. After taking charge of Donegal Boston for three years, he guided Armagh/Notre Damme to the 2005 Boston senior final before winning the Boston Intermediate Championship and All-American League in 2006 with Galway Boston.
However, in 2007, McFadden and his wife of eight years, Caroline, decided to move back home and they set up base in Gortlee, Letterkenny. In late September Enda Newton, Caroline’s brother, was getting married in Killarney, Co Kerry, but early the next morning there was another engagement in Ballybofey.
“Glenswilly had reached their first ever senior championship final and were due to play St Eunan’s,” McFadden said. “I flew from Kerry to Dublin on the Sunday morning and picked up a car and drove to Ballybofey. So I just landed having not seen Glenswilly play in a number of years but there they were in the county final.
“At the time, St Eunan’s had lost a couple of successive finals but had that experience to get over the line. Of course, two years beforehand, I was thrilled to hear Glenswilly had won the Intermediate Championship and things were going well but it was a proud moment for me to see Glenswilly in a senior final with two of my nephews (Gary and Kealan McFadden) on the team.”
Once he got settled in at home, McFadden had designs on taking over at his home club but having been out of the country for so long was at a distinct disadvantage.
However, he took charge at Fanad Gaels, leading the team to within a whisker of the 2008 senior semi-final after a one-point loss to Gaoth Dobhair at O’Donnell Park and 12 months later took the club from the peninsula to the Intermediate championship, thanks to a 2-9 to 1-7 win over Bundoran. A year at Naomh Padraig in Lifford followed but their forage for a first junior title ended at the semi-final stage.
In the meantime Glenswilly’s stock rose. Gary McDaid joined John McGinley last season to form a joint ticket that led to a memorable first championship win after Michael Murphy inspired the team to a 1-8 to 0-9 win over St Michael’s in one of the most entertaining finals in recent memory.
When the club’s run in the Ulster championship ended when Monaghan lynchpins Latton left Ballybofey with a win, McDaid and McGinley resigned and there was a vacuum to be filled.
“I’ll make no bones about it, I went for the Glenswilly job twice and didn’t get it twice,” McFadden said. “I lost by a vote the first time and then got hammered when I went with Declan Bonner. That’s what happens when you’re away for so long I suppose. But it’s a job I have always longed for and I always felt I was the right man to take over.
“What the lads achieved last year was unbelievable - it really was – and they brought so much joy to a small community. In that regard I’ve a tough act to follow but I think we’ve got the players here to build on the success of last year and can’t wait to get stuck into it now when we get back in February.”
Glenswilly now hope their dream season can prove to be the start of something and for McFadden, he’s living proof that what’s for you won’t pass you.