When the St Eunan’s College MacRory Cup team were thwarted by a Derry City legend
The day St Eunan’s College drew with the All-Ireland Colleges, the Hogan Cup champions have long been locked into the annals of Gaelic football history in Donegal and St Eunan’s College.
It is a day long forgotten by most, but not by all. And a man who remembers is Pat Boyle of Dungloe – the longtime official of the Na Rossa club. Pat remembers it for several reasons.
He was a freshman at Sentry Hill Academy and his brother James was on the St Eunan squad and it was his first MacRory Cup game. Pat’s memory of the game was refreshed recently by digging through old photographs he stumbled upon a photo of the team and the whole team.
Photo caption: The MacRory Cup panel at St Eunan’s College 1964/65
LR return; Joachim Loughrey, Ian Cunningham, Barney Winston, Sean McNelis, Danny McGeehan, Packie O’Donnell, Lochlin McGill, Dominic Gildea, Liam Slevin. LR medium; Rory Kilfeather, Sean Donnelly, John McMorrow, Mickey Doherty, Colm Ward, Kieran McGee, Anthony Gallagher, Tommy Patton. First row; Liam Grant, Willie Joe McMenamin, Sean Thomas, Hugh Fleming, James Boyle.
The photo was taken on the college steps before the MacRory Cup campaign began. The match, a first-round draw in the 1964/65 competition, was played at O’Donnell Park. The opposition was St Columbs of Derry.
Besides the fact that this was the very first MacRory Cup and that his brother James was in the left corner, the young teenager also remembers the game for a spectacular finish and result.
Pat remembers: “St Eunans was leading by four points with five minutes to go. But St Columbs scored a late goal and a point to draw. I don’t remember the final score but the draw was good enough for St Columbs to later lead the group and advance to the knockout stages at MacRory.
“St Columbs went on to win the MacRory Cup and the All-Ireland (Hogan Cup). They beat St Jarlath’s of Tuam in the All-Ireland semi-final and Belcamp of Dublin in the All-Ireland final after a replay.
The two late scores to win the crucial St Columbs draw were scored by a player who went on to play for Derry City and Finn Harps and was an international star with Northern Ireland.
“Tony O’Doherty is the player who scored the goal and the point. And while I was disappointed that St Eunan had only a draw, the two late scores were the highlight of the game for me and still are almost 60 years later.
“O’Doherty (photo) scored the goal and the point without touching the ball. For the goal, he dribbled football-style from midfield and got stuck in the back of the net. He didn’t give Danny McGeehan a chance.
“Right off the kickoff Derry won the ball again and they passed it to Tony and he dribbled again and 20 yards he just chipped the bar for the toss. These are two remarkable scores. Tony displayed remarkable skill and none of the defenders were able to stop him.
“The scores turned out to be the defining scores of the season for St Columbus. If St Eunans had held on to win, St Columbs would not have won the McRory and the Hogan Cup. O’Doherty, less than six years later, will play internationally for Northern Ireland in the British Home Championship against England in front of a crowd of 100,000 at the old Wembley Stadium on April 21, 1970.
A young Michael Cullen was the coach and manager of St Eunan. Michael had succeeded John Wilson a few years earlier.
“I was given the job when John Wilson left,” said Michael. “I remember the game. We were winning well and then they scored a goal and I think the point was close. It was the last kick of the game and I remember all of the St Columb’s players except the goalie and the shooter were in our square for free.
“We had a good team, but St Columbs was a great team. They were led by Father Iggy McQullian. Father Iggy was a former Fermanagh footballer and Cavan All-Ireland winner Charlie Gallagher was part of the management. Charlie was a dentist in Derry at the time.
“St Columbs were a fantastic team. They had a boy named Barney Mullin playing. He was a brilliant footballer and he continued to play professional football in England and Northern Ireland. I was not at all surprised that they won the Hogan Cup.
The lingering question is whether St Eunans would have gone all the way to win if he would have won the McRory and Hogan Cups. We will never know the answer to this question.
It’s an interesting thought. To the best of Pat Boyle’s recollection, the following is the team at St Eunan’s College who drew with St Columb’s back in the fall of 1964.
Team: Danny McGeehan (Glenties); Barney Winston (Letterkenny), Willie Joe McMenamin (Ballybofey), Kieran McGee (Fanad); Rory Kilfeather (Donegal Town), Anthony Gallagher (Letterkenny), Dominic Gildea (Ardara); Sean McNelis (Kilcar), Lorchan McGill (Ardara); Sean Thomas (Donegal Town, captain), Liam Slevin (Letterkenny), Mickey Doherty (Kilcar). Kevin (Colm) Ward (Downings), Packie O’Donnell (Letterkenny), James Boyle (Dungloe). The rest of the team consisted of John Morrow (Letterkenny), Joachim Loughrey (Kerrykeel), Sean Donnelly (Letterkenny), Ian Cunningham (Gaoth Dobhair), Tommy Patton (Rathmullan), Liam Grant (Buncrana), Hugh Fleming (Carrigart) ).