Donal Monaghan - a GAA man to the core

Donal Monaghan - a GAA man to the core

Donegal is mourning the sad passing of a marvellous footballer and a great character following the death of former footballer, Donal Monaghan from Donegal Town.

That was how the former All-Star, who died on Sunday night in Letterkenny University Hospital, was remembered this week by his many friends both inside and outside football.

Donal, who was 68, was Donegal’s second All-Star. Brian McEniff, in 1972, was the county’s first. Donal was the proud winner of two Ulster Senior championship medals in a senior career that spanned two decades from 1967 to 1977.

He also enjoyed good success with Four Masters, both as a player manager and mentor.

The first of those Ulster Senior Championship medals was won in 1972 and the second two years later in 1974, He was honoured with his All-Star in 1974 at right corner-back.

He made his championship debut in the summer of 1970, in the first round of the Ulster Championship. And he had his last championship outing seven years later, against Derry, in the first round of Ulster in the summer of 1977.

A stylish and uncompromising corner-back in his playing days, he formed a formidable last line of defence with Pauric McShea and Andy Curran.

“We joined the Donegal squad around the same time and we finished up around the same time,” said Andy Curran.

“Donal was a great character and a marvellous footballer and it was an honour to play alongside him.

“Donal was in one corner and I was in the other corner and Pauric McShea was full-back. We played well together and there was a great camaraderie between us. We enjoyed some good times and good success,” said Curran.

“It was a good time for Donegal football. We won a first Ulster title and went on to win a second two years later. They were great times and we have great memories from those years and I felt very sad when I heard that Donal had died.

“He was a marvellous footballer. He had a great catch and was a great man to field a ball. He could outfield the best and there were a number of good forwards around at the time.

“He was a joy to watch as he soared into the air for a ball and it was great to be on the same team as him.

“He took his football very serious and trained very hard. He was very committed and was a great GAA man.

“He was always in good form and was always a positive influence in the dressing. He was also a great character and was great company and good fun. He was a good man to spin a yarn and was an all round genuine good fellow.

“Sadly, I hadn’t met him in years, but any time we did we always had a good chat about those playing and it was always good to meet up with him and he was always in good spirits despite his illness.”

Donal also was a senior club championship winner with Four Masters in 1982 and he enjoyed great success in management and as a mentor and selector, both with Four Masters and Donegal.

As manager he guided Four Masters to a first Donegal U-21 club championship title in 1979. He was a player and mentor/selector with Tom Conaghan to senior championship titles in 1982 and ‘84 and also was by Tom Conaghan’s side along with Michael Lafferty when Donegal won its first ever All-Ireland title, the U-21 crown of 1982.

And he was also with Tom Conaghan when Donegal won promotion to Division One league football for the first time in 1988.

Four Masters club colleague and All-Star forward, Joyce McMullin played with and was managed and mentored by the late Donal Monaghan, both with the club and Donegal.

“Donal and the late Seamus Bonar were the big name players in Donegal Town when I was growing up in the 1970s,” said Joyce McMullan, as he recalled the late Donal Monaghan’s influence on his playing career both with club and county.

“I remember as a young boy of ten and 12 going to Tirchonaill Park to see them play. He was a class player and was a joy to watch and the one thing from a very early age was his ability to field a high ball.

“He had an exceptional pair of hands and was more than a match for the best in the air. He was a great leader and a great role model and always gave great encouragement to young players.

“He was a great man to put a hand on the shoulder and to offer words of advice and it was always good advice. He had a great knowledge of the game and was a great tactician and was an out and out GAA man.

“He was not afraid to let you know if you were doing something he did not approve of. I remember a couple of times in my early days there was talk about me joining Finn Harps.

“But any time it arose I would get a subtle tap on the shoulder and after he finished talking I was left in no doubt that he did not approve of such a move.

“I really owe a lot to him for all the advice I received from him down the years and he was involved in some way or another with all the success I enjoyed from winning a county U-21 and two senior championships with the club and an All-Ireland U-21 with the county.

“He was a great character and great man to tell story though I’m not sure if they were all true.”

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Donal Monaghan Factfile

1964, ‘65: Played minor for Donegal

1967: Intercounty debut, league v Fermanagh 15 Oct.

1970: Championship debut, v Antrim

1972: Corner-back on first ever Donegal Ulster Senior Championship winning side

1974: Corner-back on winning Ulster SFC

1975: Dr. McKenna Cup winner

1979: Managed Four Masters to Donegal U-21 Club Championship

1982: Mentor with Donegal All-Ireland U-21 Championship winners

1982: Captained Four Masters to Donegal SFC

1987-’89: Mentor with Donegal seniors

72 appearances with Donegal

15 Championship appearances (Donegal went out in first round in five of seven SFC years)

Donal Monaghan's playing record for Donegal at minor, U-21, Junior and senior.

(Thanks to Charlie O'Donnell and Fr Seán for statistics)