Farewell to Donie Mac from all in Aghada GAA

10 February, 2009

When we were very small boys, a game of hurling was arranged to take place between Rostellan and Lr. Aghada. A very young Michael Lewis (maybe 12ish) was captain/ manager/organiser for Lr. Aghada, while Rostellan were to be captained/managed/organised by a young, but even then mad, Seanie O’Keeffe. But the real reason behind the game was one Donal Mc Carthy.

Even then the young Donie, was an incredible ball hopper and he had spent months telling Mickey that Rostellan would wipe the floor with Lr. Aghada and that he himself would “take care” of Mickey! All in good fun. But it built up a nice bit of rivalry for the game all the same.

On the day, the Lr. Aghada team were waiting for half an hour on the pitch with no sign of Rostellan showing up. Then they were spotted at the top of the driveway. Manager Sean O’Keeffe had gathered them together in Rostellan and they had marched in single file all the way into the GAA grounds. Much to the disappointment of us Lr. Aghada lads though, there was no sign of Donie Mac. Why he was late we never found out, must have been the search for a few bob involved, but he did arrive down while the match was well underway. Lr. Aghada were coasting to victory at this stage and Mac was on the sideline, one knee on the ground, the hurley standing by his side in the pose of an old style hurler, and shouting at Seanie. “Bring me on Seanie”. “No Mac you were late”. “Bring me on Seanie, can’t you see your making a balls of things!” Of course Seanie did bring him on, but it didn’t alter the result and Lr. Aghada left with the bragging rights which were, needless to say, all directed at Mac.

He didn’t mind. He just loved the craic, no matter who was on the receiving end.

Even back then Donie Mc was an institution within Aghada GAA. And the thousands of stories that recall his deeds were already gathering momentum. He was Conor Counihans 1st aid man all year for the ’83 county U14’s and to every match he carried a small brown leather suitcase for his 1st aid supplies. He can be seen in the video of the final running in at high speed to an injured Aghada man.

When he gets there however he doesn’t actually do anything, the “suitcase” remains closed and to this day people are wondering if there ever was actually any “supplies” in the case.

Unfortunately for Donie his poor health meant he never got the chance to play hurling or football for his beloved Aghada, but typical Donie, he didn’t let this hinder either his involvement or enjoyment of being a member of Aghada GAA.

And if he couldn’t be in the midst of balls hopping on the pitch, off it any time there was a ball hop, Mac was sure to be in the thick of things. Donie Morrissey and all the Morrissey’s were always very good to Mac, and when Donie Mor, would be elected to take charge of the Aghada hurlers at an AGM, Donie Mac would be straight out to the pubs the next weekend. “Will ya be involved with Donie Mor this year Mac?”. “ I will, and to be honest with ya, you’re wasting your time trying to get your game, I’ll see to that”. Then a big laugh and he’d be off to his next victim to tell him the same thing. All good banter.

Then of course, he wouldn’t be seen till the week of championship and knowing that he would get an almighty going over, he would stride into the dressing room at its fullest and a big roar would go up attacking him for only showing up 5 days before the big game. He’d quickly tell one or two players they’re wasting their time training this week and as the roar would get louder he be gone out of the dressing room again.

In fairness to Donie, he was a great clubman and was always willing to do the jobs that maybe other fellows wouldn’t have the stomach for. He was a great fundraiser for the Juvenile club, more or less single handedly running a regular poker classic for them. A great man to sell tickets, only himself and one or 2 others really sell the County Board tickets on behalf of the club, and he is always looking at new ways for fundraising, which he would gladly help out with. When our recent €1,000 donation scheme was launched, Mac never had to be asked, as he was on the phone to myself straight away asking me to drop the forms in to his home so he could fill them out as soon as possible. Donie was also a great man to have on a gate at match day.

You wouldn’t get by him too easy, and on one occasion when an irate follower went to drive through him at the gate, he quickly flung the barrier across the car’s path and the poor man hit it with his car. Another time I remember, he was given the task of manning the gate to the pitch for a juvenile final, with strict instructions to keep a certain “disruptive “ lady from gaining entry to the sideline. Well this lady didn’t take too kindly to being kept out and she strode around the outside of the wire looking for another entry route. If she did, Mac followed her like a shadow inside the wire and blocked her off at every turn. What’s ironic about this is that while he was a mighty man for applying the letter of the law to others, he never really felt that the same should apply to him. He wasn’t so much a poacher turned gamekeeper, as a gamekeeper who never gave up the poaching!!

For a man, given only a few weeks to live when he was born, what he has done and achieved despite his illness, would put the rest of us to shame. A bypass at 12yrs of age and a heart transplant at 22 and still he was able to take part in sport which he of course loved to do. He’s been to Italy, Australia, Germany, Bangkok, Helsinki, Thailand and others representing his country at World and European Transplant games, winning no shortage of Gold, Silver and bronze medals along the way. He’s competed in race-walking, badminton, darts, 10 pin bowling, and ball throw. 1997 was his 1st World championships in Australia.

Unfortunately for Mac in one of his early competitions, after 3 warnings he was disqualified for not keeping at least one foot on the ground during the race walk. Since then he’s had success after success at these games, but Mac being Mac, always into the slagging, the Aghada lads never left him live down that disqualification and he got a massive doing over it. Don’t worry he gave it back twofold and as always it was all for the laugh. He used to really enjoy telling Counihan that an All- Ireland medal was all well and good, but he’d never know what it was like to win at European and World levels!

Donie Mc was proud to be an Aghada man, and Aghada was always proud of the man that was Donie Mc. He will be sadly missed by the club and by all his friends in Aghada GAA and to his family we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences. And whatever Saints will be looking after him from now on, they should know they have quite a character on their hands. Keep a close eye on him though, as he might not always have one foot on the ground!