In 1988, Killybegs won their first championship in close on four decades when the defeated neighbours Kilcar in a cliffhanger in Ballybofey.
Jimmy White, later of referee fame, scored an injury time goal to snatch a late and dramatic win for the Fishermen who won by two points 2-10 to 2-8.
The goal had more than a hint of a square ball about it. It came when a long ball from Barry Cunningham seemed to be caught in the square by Rory McNelis who laid it back to Jimmy White who slammed it to the net. That was in the first minute of injury time and Barry McGowan rounded off the scoring shortly after to seal a famous victory.
Kilcar led by four points at half-time with James McHugh scoring the goal late on in the half and while Killybegs pulled it back early in the second period a Martin McHugh penalty after Mark McShane was fouled gave Kilcar some breathing space again.
However, with the Killybegs defence holding firm, Kilcar did not score for the next 12 minutes as Killybegs hauled themselves back into contention with a couple of Manus Boyle points.
With Killybegs pressing for much of the remainder of the game, they were rewarded for their gallant effort and refusal to buckle when White hit the net for goal number two.
Denis and Paul Carberry, John Cunningham, Jimmy White, Barry Cunningham, John ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Barry McGowan and Manus Boyle all had big games for the new champions.
However, the victory, a first Dr Maguire Cup success in 36 years, was tinged with a large degree of sadness. Killybegs had begun the year and their championship campaign with Eamonn Byrne as team captain.
However, Eamonn, who was from Wicklow and in his early 30s, died suddenly during a league game in Fr Tierney Park against Aodh Ruadh. That game was a week after the got their campaign up and running with a one point first round first leg win over Four Masters, in Fintra.
Eamonn was an inspirational leader both on and off the field and was a dedicated clubman and the club’s new ground at Fintra is named after him. His death came as a major shock and had a profound effect on all the players and the whole Killybegs club. Their county final day win three month’s later was dedicated to his memory.
A week after Eamonn’s sad passing further misfortune hit the club when vice-captain John ‘Baker’ Boyle was involved in a car accident and missed out on the rest of the season though he was named among the subs on final day.
The 1988 success and that of subsequent years was built on a glorious decade of underage success at the club in which they won 17 county titles from U-12 right up to U-21.
John Joe O’Shea was the team manager in 1988; Brendan Dempsey, a Meath man and manager of the Ulster Bank in Killybegs, was a team mentor. Michael Gallagher was the team trainer assisted by Colm Cunningham and Bernard Conaghan.
Killybegs 1988: Hughie McFadden; Paul Carbery, Denis Carbery, Micheal Campbell; Kevin White, Jimmy White (1-1), John McGuinness; John Cunningham, Barry Cunningham (0-2); Barry McGowan (0-2), John ‘Ban’ Gallagher (1-0), Conor White (0-3); Conal Gallagher, Manus Boyle (0-2), Rory McNelis. Subs used Keith Jones for C White; Charlie Tully for R McNelis. Rest of squad Pat Byrne, Francis Murray, Barry Cunningham (jun), Stephen Burke, Declan McMenamin, Tony Hegarty, Donal Cannon and John ‘Baker’ Boyle.
Referee: Kieran McGlynn (Glenfin).