The Bundoran team of 1979 - Donegal senior champions
Donal Reid continues his tour of GAA clubs in Donegal by visiting his former club Bundoran. It’s a town where Donal learned so much about life, and football, and where he took up employment for the first time many years ago
Bundoran, by the silvery sea; Your golden strand and charms so grand, are ever calling me; There’s welcome always waiting, And happiness for all, In beautiful Bundoran, The Queen of Donegal (Mai O’Higgins).
I spent almost four years working in Bundoran back in the early 1980s. It was a life-changing and football-changing period for me. I used to think of Bundoran as a place where one stopped for a cone and played slot machines when I was a youngster. To be honest, I never gave the place much thought as I passed through it many times on my way to third level education in Galway. All that changed early in 1982.
Bundoran was, actually up until over a century ago, two separate villages. Bundoran was the village west of the bridge over the River Bradog, this area is now known as the West End. East of the bridge almost a mile away, was the village of Single Street. In between these two separate communities lay the historic townland of Drumacrin. It was only after the opening of the railway station in 1866 which was called Bundoran that the two distinct communities developed and merged to what we know nowadays to be Bundoran.
Seamus O'Reilly after the All-Ireland U-21 final when he played with Mayo
Single Street was where the majority of the local native population lived. Across the bridge in what is now the West End, was the area of residence favoured by the more affluent classes.
The first official mention of Bundoran was in 1777 when Viscount Enniskillen built Bundoran Lodge, his summer residence. The Viscount seems to have started a trend amongst his contemporaries as more and more of them discovered Bundoran and visited it to enjoy the seaside location and the associated health benefits.
Indeed, such was its popularity that Bundoran became known as the Brighton of Ireland. With the advances in travel, in particular the railway, Bundoran’s popularity spread across the class barriers.
With the opening of the railway link to Belfast and onto Dublin more and more people from the east coast of Ireland discovered the appeal of Bundoran and returned year after year.
It was during this period that Bundoran emerged as one of Ireland’s most popular seaside resorts. Hotels and lodging houses started to spring up around the town. The best-known hotel and indeed one of Bundoran’s best landmarks the Great Northern Hotel was constructed by the Great Northern Railway Company during this period (discoverbundoran.com).
The Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran
It was at this best-known hotel and best Bundoran landmark where I was employed as Assistant Manager.
Fresh from Hotel and Catering College I was full of enthusiasm and energy. Brian McEniff took over from Viscount Enniskillen and immersed himself in the hotel industry in Bundoran. When I joined the Great Northern Hotel, Brian and brother Sean (now deceased) were co-owners. Soon though Brian became sole owner with Sean moving to the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny.
The Great Northern Hotel was a high-end hotel (and still is) with full occupancy during its open season. There was never a dull moment as each day brought new challenges.
This was my first full-time serious job. I had also signed for Bundoran GAA club. This was the time where I learned most about life and most about football.
I believe that I may have been a firm and solid hotel manager but I also remember having great fun with the staff and guests during my time there.
Philip McGlynn at Gaelic Park in Bundoran
The driving forces behind the hotel though, were Philip and Mary McGlynn. Philip was the Hotel Manager while Mary took control of everything administrative which still doesn’t do Mary justice since she was the glue that held everything together.
Mary and Philip were very good to me and ensured that I bedded into the hotel processes from the outset.
Our busiest period was always evening dinner which coincided with my training schedules with Bundoran and Donegal - Bundoran (Wednesdays and Fridays), Donegal (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Hotels run 24/7 and are unlike any other business. After training, I was back to work until the wee hours of the morning.
I hadn’t played much football while studying in Galway since Hotel and Catering training and business has irregular hours. Bundoran GAA soon sorted out my fitness. I was also training with Tom Conaghan's U-21 team then which brought the first ever All-Ireland title to Donegal that year.
As you can imagine, I had a very full and busy life. I made many friends in Bundoran whom I respect greatly. Some have passed while others still reside in the seaside town.
My social accomplice and great friend, Seamus O'Reilly, who died so suddenly 21 years ago, is ever present in my thoughts and prayers. Maura and I stay in regular contact with Seamus's wife Rosaleen and their family.
Jim Carr who was head barman in the Holyrood hotel is a Gaelic football fanatic and he is a person who I admired greatly. Jim never had a bad word to say to or about anyone. His mild mannerisms and jovial personality endeared him to all who met him.
On the football field, I had the pleasure of playing with some of my childhood heroes, Seamie Granaghan and Brian McEniff.
Going to county training in Ballybofey was always a scream. McEniff drove a gang of us. From Bundoran there was Seamus O’Reilly, Fintan Lynch and myself. In Ballyshannon we picked up McEniff's sidekick and former Donegal full-back Pauric McShea, Gary Walsh, Sylvester Maguire, Tommy McDermott, Brian Tuohy and Brian Murray. We'd pick up Matt Gallagher in Ballintra.
McShea and McEniff piloted and co-piloted respectively. We told jokes and sang along with the country hits that McEniff played in his car stereo. Those were truly great times.
Bundoran depends a lot on tourism for its survival. Seasonal workers come and go but some stay on.
During the club season it was always difficult to put a team together but we always managed to field. Saturday evenings and Sundays were all busy days. Many of the Bundoran team were involved full-time or casually in the tourism industry. It was our bread and butter.
During my time there, we had quite a strong senior team. Four Masters beat us in the county semi-final after a replay in 1982. They went on to win the county title that year.
Bundoran was the first ever team to win the Donegal senior championship title, beating Red Hughs in the Brandywell in Derry in 1920 (1919 championship). Bundoran also won the senior championship in 1934 and 1979. They won the Intermediate championship in 1977, 2010 and 2015.
In recent years Bundoran GAA have redone their pitch and modernised their dressing rooms. A new stand has also been erected and a training pitch developed on the grounds. I walked the pitch with Philip McGlynn last Monday which was immaculate and a credit to the club.
I know that Philip was one of the main architects for the development and success of the Bundoran club throughout the years. Philip was reluctant to take any credit but from personal experience I know that Philip has been and still is very active in developing GAA in Bundoran.
Philip served as Chairman on three different occasions. He was club secretary, club treasurer and club PRO too. Philip is currently one of the Park's trustees. He certainly has Bundoran and Donegal GAA at heart as he rolled up his sleeves to help Donegal raise huge funds in recent years.
In 2017, the jubilee year for the 1992 team, he personally organised our weekend in Dublin for the All-Ireland final Sunday showing. He approached Magees of Donegal town and secured suits for every team member. He dealt with all the logistics, accommodation, food and transport.
Without Philip McGlynn our return to Croke Park for our 25-year celebration would have been a disaster. McGlynn’s contribution to Bundoran and Donegal GAA cannot be understated.
I would like to personally thank Philip and his wife Mary for everything that they did for me while I was in Bundoran. To the Bundoran GAA club, you gave me great memories which I will always cherish. Thank you.
Go mbeannaí Dia sibh.
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