Seamus Bonar is up there now and if there is a corner table for giants, Seamus is at that table!
My first encounter with the Donegal Town man was when I was drafted into a Tir Chonaill Gaels team that was touring Donegal in 1974 and I ended up playing directly against Seamus. No doubt I didn’t come off that well as Seamus was a big, strong caddy then.
After the game Seamus came over and talked to me and as I was living in Dublin, it transpired that we were living close to each other in Dublin. From that day we became close friends and he asked me to go training with them at the Garda Grounds in Dublin.
He also got me a trial with Donegal and I ended up playing with him both at football and golf ever since.
As a footballer I have no problem saying that he was one of the best ever to play for Donegal in any era. He got me to join Civil Service as well and he captained them to win the Dublin Senior Championship in 1980, after losing the 1979 final.
He had a fantastic skill level and his strength allowed him to play in any area of the field, but nearly always in a central position. For Civil Service, he played mainly on the ‘40’ but Seamus could play anywhere as he had everything.
His great football brain was best illustrated when he was playing a 7-a-side game once and there were no ‘50’s allowed. He got into a tight situation in his own half-back line, surrounded by opposition, and he turned and kicked the ball wide. His colleagues were baffled by his decision, but quickly realised that he did so because there were no ‘50s’ and we had a kick-out to get. No other player would have thought so quickly on their feet.
He was a giant on the field of play but a gentle giant off it. He never had an awful lot to say but whenever he spoke, people listened. There was great respect for Seamus when he spoke about football.
One great memory from our time with Civil Service was a League game against St. Vincent’s in 1984/’85. He was at full-forward at this stage, but won a ball on the ‘40’, beat his man and I knew well to get out of his way as he bore past my marker and fired to the net to get us a vital league win. Our full-forward line that day was over 100 years of age, myself, Seamus and Benny Gaughran of Louth.
We had many great days after our football days. He joined Westmanstown Golf Club in Clonsilla and just like other things, he got me to join to. At golf, the same as football, he brought the same determination. We had the same fourball every Wednesday and one he stood on the first tee, he meant business. I was always his partner against two other friends, John McGarrell of Monaghan and Brian O’Donnell of Tipperary. Seamus always had a saying before we would start each Wednesday: “The fella that didn’t play well last week knows who he is!”
When Seamus got sick, we could never replace him. The week after we laid him to rest, we played as a three ball as a mark of respect and the members of Westmanstown came to us during and after the game, congratulating us on our little tribute. That reflected the esteem in which he was held at the club. “You miss the Big Fella” was their reaction. His passing left a big void at the club.
It was the same with St. Bridget’s GAA club, where he gave dedicated service as coach and manager, firstly at underage and later at adult level. He had great friends there like Thomas Quinn of Ballyshannon and Phil Kelly of Inishowen.
There was another side to Seamus that made him the person that he was. If a car ever broke down in the general area, the first man you would ring was Seamus. He would arrive with jump leads, open the bonnet and would you have you going in no time. “What do I owe you?” you would ask, and the reply would always be: “Aw, we’ll meet you again. We’ll have a drink some time.”
With his influence in the Gardai, he would go to the ends of the earth to help you, whether that be a parking ticket, or giving some young recruit a leg up the Garda ladder.
Before ending this tribute, it would be remiss of me not to mention his wonderful wife Cathy. There is no nicer person in this work, that you could meet. She took wonderful care of Seamus through his illness and she is a saint.
Seamus will be greatly missed in Dublin and Donegal but he will always be remembered with fondness wherever Donegal football is discussed.
A football giant on and off the field!
- Finnian McDonnell
A Memorial Mass will be held for Seamus Bonar in St. Agatha’s Church, Clar, tomorrow evening Friday, 30th at 7 p.m.