July 31, 1992
Donegal's Donal Reid breaks the challenge of Mayo's Ray Dempsey
The pride of Killygordon
An instinctive attacker better known as a defender
In cricket parlance, Donal Reid, the Donegal dynamo from the Aodh Ruadh club, would be over 115 not out. One of the game's most versatile players, and with a century-plus competitive games under his belt, he's part of a team determined to make it back-to-back All-Ireland titles for the province of Ulster.
The "daddy" of the team, he's just one of a number of men on the Donegal side preparing to face into the All-Ireland semi final for whom the Elvis Presley song "It's now or never" will be ringing in their ears as they trot out for the photographers shots in front of the Hogan Stand. Donal Reid knows he'll be playing for his shirt against the Connacht champions, there'll be no return trip to the dressing rooms at headquarters after this season runs it's course.
An instinctive attacker, better known as a defender, Reid's swansong this year will be funereal to the ears of his legions of fans in his home county and similarly minded gaels further afield. One of an all too rare breed of defender who always thinks and acts positive especially on the ball, his whippet-like mobility and his covering of the ball plus his penchant for stealing scores in important games will be badly missed by supporters up north and, presumably, Brian McEniff's immediate successor, should the Donegal supremo lose his shirt also in the coming weeks.
Amazingly, Reid's departure to quieter pastures appeared on the horizon quicker than most supporters in Donegal and he himself had forecasted, for at the start of this year's championship season, the Red Hughs man was apparently excess to requirements for a place on the county side to kick start their bid for provincial glory. Reid's omission for Donegal's duel with Cavan at Breffni Park in the first round of the championship back on May 24th last surprised everyone in Donegal except the team management. It was like a shot out of the blue to everyone involved with football in the county. For the second year in succession, it appeared to those on the fringes of things happening in Donegal that the team management were about to commit Hari-Kari again.
In 1991, the omission of tigerish wing half back Martin Shovlin caused something more than a scratch of the head as supporters headed to Clones for the provincial showdown with Down. To them, the breaking up of the Donegal half back line was like taking Kerry's John Egan out from the corner. Even objective observers of the game in Donegal recognised that the Shovlin, Gavigan and reid combination probably represented the best lie of defence in the country. The Dublin trio of Curran, Carr and Heery were the only other combination which vied for that tag, it was suggested.
Honest but without any question of bitterness, direct without being arrogant, the marketing manager with team sponsors Donegal Creameries admits to have been stunned by the team management's decision to leave him on the bench for the county's opening test. "I had no injury problems and my form was quite good going into the Ulster championship. To be frank, not being selected came as a bombshell to me."
Being dropped for the first time in your career can leave a bad taste in the mouth of someone not quite as rational, loyal and as resilient as the 30 year old long serving Donegal ace. Reid responded in a way which must have been greatly satisfying for the team management. Coming on for the unfortunate Paul Carr early in the first half at Breffni Park restored the equilibrium on the half back line, restored Reid's confidence and did much to rescue a Donegal side whose title ambitions were utterly questionable at that point. Donegal dug deep as a team and scraped a draw before cruising home in the replay. The Donegal train was once again hurtling down the rails towards Jones Road and well strapped in was one Donal Reid.
Donal Reid's appearance against Derry in this year's Ulster Final marked his 24th championship outing with his home county. 1982 marked his first year as a senior county player and expectations were running high for himself personally and in Donegal GAA in general. The county was on a roll ten years ago having just one the All-Ireland under 21 championship with Reid being joined by men like Sean Bonner, Matt Gallagher, Paul Carr, Martin Shovlin, Anthony Molloy, Joyce McMullan and Charlie Mulgrew on that side. A midfield berth on the team alongside Molloy suggested that the Aodh Ruadh clubman just then recruited to the Bundoran club, had all the stamina, know-how and work rate needed to make the grade at the highest level. Everything that Donal Reid has produced since at club and county level has testified to the exactness and correctness of that early judgement.
It was during the spell with his adopted colleagues at Bundoran that Reid's direction in football was to be given a more decided gypsy-aura about it. No longer would a strictly attacking role be associated with the new boy in town. At work a conscientious employee of the Great Northern Hotel then, at play, a rookie defender with a liking for aiding and abetting his team mates up front.
As an apprentice defender, the then 20 year old was in good hands at the rearguard of the Bundoran defence. There alongside him was one Brian McEniff, soon to be installed as one of the most successful football gurus in modern-day GAA history. Donegal needed another defender like the affable hotelier wanted a bomb scare in Bundoran, but Reid was so versatile, his commission as Donegal's ever ready flexible friend almost seemed pre-ordinated.
The Killygordon kingpin, now operating as a defender at club level in a county blessed with an abundance of top class backs, made his first, initial claim to fame however, as a half forward on the Donegal team which conquered Cavan to win the 1983 provincial senior title. Brother of Bosco, later to make the county senior grade in '85/'86 and of current county under 21 player Oliver, Donal Reid's adaptability, unlike others in the game, was to prove an asset rather than a liability. Only players as talented and as resourceful as Reid could possible carry such a role without fault.
Now based at work in Letterkenny, promotion recently with Donegal Creameries has given the Railway Cup medalist of '89 and '90 more than just football to think about. With a wife and two daughters at the front of his priorities, Donal's decision to call it a day after this season was somewhat inevitable but has provided him with even great motivation to end his career with the most lucrative dealer of all. Already the holder of Ulster senior medals in '83 and '90 plus the '82 under 21 All-Ireland, one gets the feeling that the Aodh Ruadh stalwart is anxious not to overstay his welcome on the county side. A return to the bench as an experienced reservist would not suit Reid's style were he asked to comply in the seasons ahead.
Now fully recovered from niggling injury worries which hampered his preparations in the run up to last year's championship, the 1980 All Star replacement did more than most to destroy Derry's bid for national glory on the double this year. A skilful operator on the ball, despite being under the cosh like the rest of his team mates, following the dismissal of John Cunningham, Reid never failed to deliver the quality ball for Donegal's forward machine to operate on. In essence, Reid is a forward's delight, always accurate with his deliveries and ever- willing to take a return pass or to assist when his colleagues up front is in trouble while in possession.
Himself the "extra" man against Cavan in the replayed first round tie, Donal Reid looks back on the recent Derry game and reflects on Derry's abject failure to use Gerry Coleman to the full in his new role. "Derry reacted extremely negative by using Gary Coleman as a sort of sweeper in defence, playing just behind the defence. When we saw what was going on, it was fairly easy for us just to make sure that we kept the ball spread out to the wings and away from the central area that he (Coleman) was covering," explained the 5ft 11inch, 12 stone loyal Tir Connaill servant.
Obviously benefiting enormously from his pre-Christmas sabbatical, being back in what many see as the Donegal engine-room half back line is what drives him on to work as hard as he has ever done on his own game. Few of the Donegal panel took part as eagerly as Donal Reid in the training sessions which recommended two evenings after the county's fifth Ulster senior title was clinched. Getting the Killygordon man to train has never required a whip.
A proverbial launching pad for so many of Donegal's attacking forays, the 'erstwhile attacker knows that the way forward for Donegal is clearer now than it ever was. Dublin, he feels, will start as favourites of the four semi finalists to win out the Sam Maguire Cup. Donal Reid, however, reflecting on his team's defeat at the death to the Dubs in the League play off in Cavan, would love another crack at the Sky Blues. He's confident that Donegal can overcome the challenge from the west. He's confident also that, in the post semi final match debates, the discussions at work in the week afterwards will be dominated by football banter rather than milk agents and advertising slogans!
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
31st July 1992
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