GAA Football

'The day I could have locked Frank McGuigan in the changing-room'. Tony Donnelly recalls his first meeting with 'the king'.

Frank McGuigan on the rampage against Armagh (including Joe Kernan).
Andy Watters

THEY called him 'the King' in Tyrone and Frank McGuigan remains the best player Tony Donnelly, the former Red Hands assistant-manager, ever saw. Tony recalls his first meeting with the sublimely talented Ardboe clubman...

WHEN I was 17, I finished a reserve game for Augher before the seniors played Ardboe. I was last out of the changing room and standing outside the door was this young fella wearing a flowery shirt out over his trousers with long hair with the fringe nearly over his eyes. He was holding a pair of boots and football socks in his hands. It was Frank McGuigan.

He says: “Where’s the away team’s dressing room?” I said: “Follow me Frank”. We had to go out one door and in another and I showed him where it was. The two teams were already out on the pitch and the game had just started and he went in and I closed the door. I noticed the key was in the door and I thought, for one fleeting moment: ‘I could lock Frank McGuigan in there’.

That would have helped our team but I resisted the temptation. I thought: ‘No, I want to see McGuigan play’.

I went out and watched and the score was soon Augher 0-4 Arbdoe no-score. Then Frank came out and he was leaning against the post with his arms folded. The Ardoe bench saw him and got flustered: ‘Quick get Frank on!’

They got him on at full-forward and a couple of minutes later it was Augher 0-4 Ardboe 1-1, a goal and a point from Frank McGuigan.

If I was picking a team from any era, Frank would be the first man on it. He could play midfield or wherever but he was more renowned as a full-forward. He was the most naturally-gifted footballer I ever had the privilege to watch.

His dummy, feinting to shoot with his right then dummying into a solo and scoring with his left, was his invention and they called it the ‘McGuigan dummy’. I felt he was majestic, sublime… You could quote any superlative under the sun and it still wouldn’t do him justice. Even opposition supporters loved to see him.

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GAA Football