30 April 1993
Net minder and net breaker
Dream day against Dublin in All-Ireland Final
The dream. In the schoolyard, in the back garden or on the local playing field. Imaginations run riot. Those with an interest in horses will want to ride the winner of the Grand National, the boys on the bikes think that theyre Stephen Roche or Sean Kelly, if theyve hurleys theyll be Nicholas English or DJ Carey or Brian Corcoran. It has always been the same. Youngsters winning at imaginary Olympic Games, Wimbledon, Wembley or the Curragh And then there are those who dream about Croke Park ... on All-Ireland Final day ... in the county jersey .. playing a “blinder” ... winning an All-Ireland medal ... and being named as Man of the Match.
If youd met Manus Boyle coming out of Breffni Park on May 24th last and predicted that his dream would become reality in less than four months, the Killybegs man would have summoned the men in white coats (not the umpires). And hed have told them to throw away the key. Donegal had made a most unimpressive start to their championship campaign ... their corner forward had been even less impressive. It was an unhappy “opener” for Brian McEniffs men. Cavan, a team they had beaten with monotonous regularity in recent years, had managed to force a replay. Manus had been called ashore early in the game. Perhaps he had tried to come back too soon from injury. Declan Bonner also failed to see out the seventy minutes. And Donegals goal had more than a suspicion of “square” ball about it. The dream seemed as far away as ever. On the same evening, the dream was gone for Meath and Cork. At least Donegal had another chance. And that was the sole consolation.
Manus Boyle was not to line out for his county again until the third Sunday in September. Throughout the Ulster campaign, he watched from the substitutes bench, getting the nod when one of the forwards was injured or having an off-day. Brief appearances against Cavan in the replay and against Fermanagh. No instruction to warm up against Derry in the Ulster Final. The turnaround came in the All-Ireland semi final against Mayo. Donegal had played with the breeze in the opening half but had recorded eight wides and were only on level terms 0-6 apiece at the break. The second half started in a similar vein. The dream was beginning to fade again. The mentors collective frustration increased. Seven minutes of the half had elapsed when Brian McEniff told Noreen Doherty to write Manus Boyles number on the substitutes slip. Twenty eight minutes for the Killybegs man to do something about the teams bout of squandermania. Twenty eight minutes to win the countys first All-Ireland senior semi final. Twenty eight minutes to keep the dream alive.
Declan Bonner and Martin McHugh had experienced little success with their free-taking attempts. Manus pointed three. Donegal won by four. The build up for the All-Ireland final had begun. On the Tuesday evening before the All-Ireland, Brian McEniff announced his team for the showdown with Dublin. Manus Boyle in: Tommy Ryan out. It was most disappointing for the Termon man, but similarly satisfying for Manus. The team showed only two changes from that beaten by Meath in the All-Ireland semi final of 1990. It was Meaths full back Mick Lyons who was asked to compare the players in the Irish Independent prior to the final. “Deegan is very quick off the mark and excellent on the ground. He can be slightly faulted for going too far forward. Really came good against Clare, stuck to his task and seems to be coming back to top form. Boyle impressed me against Mayo and his free taking settled Donegal. Likes to come at the defence but Deegan has pace to match him. Mick Deegan is an excellent footballer, one of the best around, but he wont have pleasant memories of September 20th 1992 or of Manus Boyle.”
Brian Mceniff and his fellow selectors Michael Lafferty, Seamus Bonner and Naul McCole had, according to Manus “put their bottom dollar on the full forward line”. Left footed Declan Bonner, Tony Boyle and right footed Manus Boyle. “Our half forwards had to ensure that the Dublin half back line werent allowed to dominate. They succeed in forcing them to defend and the ball was played in early to us. We accounted for fourteen of the eighteen points.” Manus did not set out to become Man of the Match ... it simply added further lustre to a memorable occasion for the corner forward. Four points from play and five from frees bore ample testimony to his remarkable contribution. The dream was great. The reality was even better.
Incredibly, it wasnt Manus first Man of the Match award in an All-Ireland final. In 1987 he was full forward on the Donegal under 21 team that beat Kerry in a replay at Carrick-on-Shannon. Man of the Match. Three years earlier he had won an All-Ireland Vocation Schools medal when Longford were beaten at Croke Park. All this from a Killybegs boy. The fishing town of Killybegs is not renowned for its gaelic football tradition. The well being of Glasgow Celtic was always a more serious concern to the schoolboys, and indeed, the adults of the town on the northern shores of Donegal Bay. However, Manus participated in the local schools leagues and showed promise. The Killybegs underage teams came under the guidance of Jimmy White in the early eighties. Success follows success. From under 12 to senior - a remarkable story of perseverance and commitment. The winning of the senior championship in 1988 was a huge breakthrough for Killybegs. Theyve since added the 1991 and 92 titles and have completed the league double in the same years. And according to Manus “Jimmy White made Killybegs. He has been a huge influence and is immensely respected.” Young Boyle was also encouraged and influenced by his father and his uncle Timothy and throughout his career, his family have been a source of constant support.
The Killybegs breakthrough, (Barry McGowan and the Cunningham brothers are also All-Ireland medal winners), was a huge boost to the town. “It was fitting reward, not only for Jimmy White but also for Bernard Conaghan, Charlie Tully, Claire Tully and Mary Boyle.” Manus progress with the Donegal team went hand in hand with the Killybegs march to glory. He played minor with the county in 1984 and immediately graduated to the under 21s. His first senior appearance was against Down in Newcastle in 1985 when he came on as substitute with fifteen minutes remaining. He scored a point. He was off and on the team for the next two years and it wasnt until 1987 that he became an established member of the first fifteen. Then came that Ulster championship victory in 1990 and a heartbreaking defeat by Meath in the All-Ireland semi final.
Manus works for Bridport Gundry and its subsidiary A-Sport Limited. The company has been operating in Killybegs for twenty five years and as well as meeting the demand for all types of fishing nets, they also provide nets for all sports. “Designs of nets change all the time, both for fishing and for sport. Theres a great deal of skill involved and we use a lot of different fabrics.” Manus is currently involved in building his new house in Killybegs but when he has some free time he likes to have a relaxing round of gold at Portnoo Golf Club. At one time his handicap was down to nine, now its back up to eleven, probably on account of his demanding football commitments and his house building. Recent remarks attributed to him concerning a more even spread of “going around with the Cup” were blow out of proportion. “Nobody wants to win an All-Ireland for financial gain, but there is incredible commitment involved.”
How does Manus explain Donegals progress to Sundays League final against Dublin? “There was a great deal of celebrating, but that was only to be expected. Anthony Harkin, our trainer, is due much of the credit for our sharpness, but most of it is down to confidence. Winning is a habit and we progressed almost without noticing. The championship is still the priority but weve never won the league.” Manus will almost certainly come up against Mick Deegan again on Sunday. He also rates Clares corner back Seamus Clancy very highly. “Hes always aware of where you are. Robbie OMalley is another very difficult opponent.”
Donegals victory over Clare in the recent National League semi final was further proof of their right to be top ranked on almost everybodys current lists. The spirit appears to be just right and although Ulster champions invariably find the going too difficult in the following year, there is a growing belief that this is the best team to come out of Ulster for a long, long time. Time will tell. In the meantime, Manus will continue to make the commitment. “All the players are enjoying the new found status. We want to hold on to it as long as possible.” Younger brother Sean, 11 is fascinated by all the hype, the high profile and the excitement. And he is also showing promise at schools level. Manus also has two sisters, Denise, who is married and Patricia, and the fact that his mother is from Dublin in no way diminishes her delight last September. He is married to Ann, who is also from Killybegs. She is a member of the Carberry family, who, along with his own family, are thrilled with Donegals and Manus success. Others in Killybegs who enjoyed the Killybegs and Donegal victories in 1992 were Martin Murchan, Tony Hegarty and John The Baker Boyle. And dont forget Uncle Timothy, hes always been a great supporter.”
Manus will captain Killybegs this year as they go in search of an historic three in a row. He captained the minors to success in 1984 and is looking forward to the summer campaign with club and county. He wont be 27 until September so theres plenty of football still to be played. His goal in the All-Ireland semi final against Meath, from a penalty in 1990, was the last time a Donegalman struck the net at Croke Park in a championship game. Manus Boyle knows all about nets, what are the odds on him finding the net again at Croke Park next autumn? Very short indeed.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
30th April 1993