Donal Reid and the Donegal U-21 All-Ireland success in 1982

Donal Reid and the Donegal U-21 All-Ireland success in 1982
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

The countdown is on for the much-awaited book launch of Donal Reid’s autobiography ‘Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer’.

The 1992 All-Ireland winner is the first of the starting team from that historic team to put pen to paper and his book will be launched in the Abbey Hotel, Donegal Town (the home of the county team at that time) on Saturday week, 22nd October at 8 p.m.

The book tells the life story of Reid, from growing up in the Cross to his summer holidays in the foothills of the Blue Stacks in Eglish, through school, college, football, etc.

All proceeds from the book are being donated to Pieta House, a charity close to the author’s heart.

The book will be launched by All-Ireland winning captain from 1992, Anthony Molloy, along with Frank McGlynn, of the 2012 All-Ireland winning team.

Below is an extract from the book which details part of the football life of Reid, when he was working in Bundoran and preparing for the U-21 campaign of 1982 with Donegal.

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As well as training and playing with Bundoran, I was with the Donegal inter-county U-21 panel. Training was brutal under the eagle eyed manager Tom Conaghan. I was used to hard training because Patsy McGonagle and the Finn Valley A.C. gave me the best foundation any sports person could have. From the age of nine I competed under the toughest conditions and on the roughest terrain imaginable for anyone, never mind a youngster. To be perfectly honest, football training was a doddle for me. Tom, himself, regularly took training which consisted of never ending laps around a field in Townawilly, near Barnesmore Gap. We did endless sprints up a steep hill at one end of the field. Tom constantly interjected with a tirade of abuse and threats. It was regimental, tough but sometimes very comical. Tom may not have seen the funny side but we were amused by his mannerisms and robust approach. His mentors Michael Lafferty and Donal Monaghan displayed more measured and tactical awareness.

Getting to training from Bundoran to Townawilly wasn’t always that easy. At times Brian McEniff loaned me his car and I collected the Ballyshannon contingent Tommy McDermott, Brian Tuohy, Eunan Doyle and Sylvester Maguire and then Pauric and Matt Gallagher from Ballintra. Sometimes I got a lift into Ballyshannon and met with the lads there.

In the week leading up to the first Ulster U-21 championship game against Cavan in Breffni Park, I was late for one of our training sessions because I was so busy at The Great Northern Hotel. I hitched to Townawilly. I literally ran from the main road to the pitch in the middle of nowhere. A typical farmer’s heavy duty galvanised steel gate was tied with a rope when I arrived. This wasn’t a good sign. Training had started. Tom saw me from the distance and shouted at me not to open or climb over the gate. I walked back to the main road and hitched my way back to Bundoran. I was on time the next evening but the damage was done. I was out of favour.

We played Down in the semi-final of the Ulster U-21 championship in Ballybofey. The match was drawn and the replay took place a few weeks later. We won the replay in Newry and beat Derry in the Ulster final.

I was still not in great favour with Tom and was continually introduced as a substitution. We played Laois in the All-Ireland semi-final and I scored the winning point after being introduced as a sub again. Obviously Tom was now impressed and started me in the final against Roscommon in Carrick-on-Shannon. It was a very wet day and the pitch was sodden with rain. A huge expectant crowd crammed the small ground. It certainly was an historic day. Donegal won their first All-Ireland title at any grade. Although I felt that Tom had a bullish and obstinate approach to me I never lost faith or did I ever resent his unwillingness to play me. I was so blessed to be part of that talented team. Tom and I went on to form a great friendship in the years to come. My work in the hotel often involved sixteen hour days, trying to grab a nap in the afternoon. It definitely is not a business where a serious athlete can combine proper training with long hours.

On our approach to Donegal Town after the final bonfires lit the way as we entered Bundoran. We were ecstatic on the bus as were the people who lined the roads along the way. Tom Conaghan, Michael Lafferty, Donal Monaghan and kit man, John Cassidy, travelled separately in a car directly behind the bus. This was normal procedure for all games. Tom always kept a watchful eye on those of us who sat in the back seats. Politicians from all parties said their piece on the back of a 40 foot lorry platform. Tom terminated proceedings with a long emotional speech about everything including football.