Where are they now? Former Donegal forward Tony Boyle looks back on his career with the Tir Chonaill men
When did you play for Donegal? 1990-2001
What do you do nowadays?
I’m a sales manager with Keypoint Ltd. The company’s based in Dublin but I work out of home so I cover all of Ulster and Connacht, living out of the car
Are you still involved in Gaelic football?
I was senior team manager with Dungloe for three years there, so I finished up last year, and now I’m the U16/minor girls’ manager at the club. I’ve loved going to watch the club games this year with a wee bit less pressure from the point of view of wondering how many players we have on the morning of a match, that sort of head-wrecking stuff
What do you remember about your first game for Donegal?
That’s an easy enough one because I made my debut for Donegal in the 1990 Ulster final against Armagh. I came on as a sub for the last 20 minutes, and when you’re young like that and only into the set-up, you’re naïve and full of enthusiasm.
You don’t realise probably the enormity of playing in an Ulster final, and I was chomping at the bit to get on. Even though I was only in the squad a couple of months, I was disappointed I wasn’t making the team, and I always remember warming up on the sideline in Clones that day wondering had Brian [McEniff] forgot to put me on.
I actually went to the secretary and said ‘here listen, this man’s putting me on, get that slip wrote’. At the next break of play I went on, I didn’t even look for instruction; I was just mad keen to get on.
What’s your best memory from your playing days?
Ah, it would have to be the 1992 All-Ireland final. It’s the jubilee this year so we get another run out, or walk out even, at Croke Park.
I remember nearly every part of the game as if it was yesterday. We were very, very quietly confident – we felt the pressure was off us going into the final after we beat Mayo in the semi-final.
We went in under the radar and every man played really well. The last few minutes were very nervy but I always remember Brian telling us that when the old clock up at the Canal End ticks between 10 to five and five to five, you’re very close to the end of the game.
Those couple of minutes felt like an eternity but when that final whistle went it was absolutely fantastic, surreal almost - it was a privilege to be part of that squad.
When I think back to all the great players I played with before and after that who didn’t even win an Ulster title, you realise how lucky you were.
And the worst?
The 1998 Ulster final against Derry. Declan [Bonner] had come in, it was his first year, and we had a good run to the final.
As a team we didn’t play well, in the warm-up we lost Brian Roper who had been going well for us. Even then we still led going into the final couple of minutes but were unfortunately caught by a sucker punch goal from the infamous Mr Brolly.
It was a hard one to take.
Biggest character you played with?
Probably Declan Bonner, both on and off the pitch. When I joined the squad I’d have been very quiet, and it can be intimidating joining a squad of boys you’ve only ever seen on TV or going to watch them live.
But Declan would’ve been friends with my older brother and he took me under his wing and kept me going in the early months.
Are you glad you played in your era rather than today?
Not the football side, but the preparation and fitness side I suppose. As a full-forward I wouldn’t want to have been chasing up and down the pitch all day.
As a squad of players, we probably felt we could’ve won another All-Ireland. The ’93 Ulster final against Derry, the wet day in Clones, it probably shouldn’t have been played, but we had a lot of injuries and suspensions.
It would’ve been nice to have a full complement the following year to see could we have retained the title – we felt we wouldn’t have been far away.
We were delighted to win that one in ’92 but probably regret that we didn’t push on and win another one.