Football

Donegal hails its hero Anthony Molloy as he launches life story

Anthony Molloy, the first Donegal man to lift the Sam Maguire Cup as All-Ireland Senior Football Champions in 1992.
Anthony Molloy, the first Donegal man to lift the Sam Maguire Cup as All-Ireland Senior Football Champions in 1992. Anthony Molloy, the first Donegal man to lift the Sam Maguire Cup as All-Ireland Senior Football Champions in 1992.

EPIC words of praise had been heaped on “the greatest of them all” in the Blue Haven, on the edge of the broad Atlantic, near Kilcar.

Those words were all the more meaningful as they came from Brian McEniff, Anthony Molloy’s Donegal manager.

Later, there are two men standing tall in the middle of a now pretty empty room in the Blue Haven, speaking face to face and heart to heart.

It’s Molloy and Liam Hayes, like two old Roman gladiators recalling the sweat and dust and the pain of the great Gaelic Colosseum that is Croke Park and all the other arenas they graced all over this land.

Both were never afraid to go into those dark places that demand the utmost in character and courage.

Their mutual respect is clear for all to see as Molloy’s comrades swap yarns at the bar.

The tributes flowed freely too from so many other GAA legends in homage to the big man.

In a brilliant foreword, Jim McGuinness said:

“I came into the Donegal squad over Christmas of 1991. Anthony was immediately welcoming, and he made me believe that I was there on merit.

“There were no levels with him. It was all about Donegal in his eyes. I think that is one of his greatest gifts, that he could make people feel at ease and as if they belonged as soon as he met them.

“When I think of Anthony, the Donegal changing room seemed to revolve around his presence. He had an aura.

“Obviously, his stature and those big shoulders of his played a part, but it was his personality as well. He didn’t have to dominate the conversation, but he was always the main man.

“He was a superstar and instantly recognisable and on the bus home after games, you would find him down the back, in the thick of it and he was an absolute magnet to the other lads.

“There was a steel too. Midfield was a different sort of position in the 1980s and 1990s. If you didn’t win that, you didn’t win the game-it was as simple as that.

“He radiated a sense of command and authority and was the archetype of what a county player should be.

“It seemed like he knew everybody and always had time for them which added to the mystique in my eyes, a youngster who didn’t know anybody”.

Meanwhile Molloy’s manager Brian McEniff said simply: “We would not have won the All-Ireland without Molloy”.

“He dug deeper than anyone needed to-to lift Sam Maguire. I’m so happy he is finally putting himself first.

“And I genuinely can’t wait to relive the single greatest moment of my life, all over again, but through Anthony’s eyes.

“The fact that Anthony has decided to write this book, his memoir I know that he is doing very well and I don’t have to worry about him quite so much, or at least like I once used to.

“He is the best man to write this story. We have a special relationship - one that’s had its ups and downs yes, but we remain very close.

“1992 was a year when we took a real ownership of our own destiny. Quite simply the players asked for more. A button was pushed and it yielded spectacular results.

“And to have Anthony leading all of that was very special. Molloy was the bond that held it all together. He was never afraid to ask, push a point or relay someone else’s grievance.

“His weakness, if he had one, was that he put others first every single time. But it was also what made him such a fantastic leader”.

In the arena of battle Molloy often clashed with Liam Hayes of Meath, now the man behind Hero Books, who published this memoir.

“People like Anthony Molloy, the life he has led on the field, but even more importantly the life he has led off the field, the strong courageous man he is, that’s the person who deserves to be in a book and who deserves to have that book on a shelf forever more.

“It has been an honour for us to publish this story. We do 20 to 30 books per year, but this is as courageous and important a book as we have ever published and I mean that most sincerely.

“It has been brilliantly written by Frank Craig and they were a perfect partnership in building this book and making sure that he essence, the emotion, all the qualities of Anthony and this community in Donegal, that all those qualities came back to life between the covers of this book.

“I want to thank Anthony for trusting us and trusting me with publishing his memoir. I was previously a Meath footballer, so for Anthony to trust a Meath footballer is doubly an honour.

“I was lucky enough to be part of a Meath team that won All-Ireland finals in 1987 and 1988. We battled hard and fought hard to get to the top of the mountain.

“But we were totally unaware of a train coming around the corner. We were not dismissive of Donegal, but we thought that was 'just Donegal.'

“Then in 1990 we played Donegal in the NFL Quarter-Final in Clones and they played us off the field.

“We were the best team in the country and they played us off the field and we got two late goals and we robbed the game.

“Later that year, we played Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park.

“We all knew what Donegal were all about and again they played us off the field and again two late goals got us through to the All-Ireland final.

“That was an important year and in Anthony’s book you will probably find that this was the best year of his playing career.

“He was a colossus on the field and I know that personally on the field because I was on the field trying to stop him.

“The man was a giant and a flick of a switch and Donegal would have won the All-Ireland final in 1990 and may have won two or three All-Irelands”.

“And if Anthony had lifted the Sam Maguire Cup two or three times it would have been totally deserved. It was a powerful team led by a powerful leader."

The man himself said he was overwhelmed by all the kind words: “I know there are people here from all over the county and the country as well.

“I knew Liam Hayes and Frank Craig were the men for the job and I can’t thank Frank Craig enough.

“He would come to my house, have a cup of tie, lie back on the sofa and I would rattle away. I had very little to do with this, by the way”, he quipped.

“I just told my story, but Frank had to go back and put all of this together and I hadn’t a clue about how many hours he put into my project. It would have been impossible to do it without Frank”.

Molloy spoke openly about his problems with alcohol: “ Maybe it was my nature, but I thought I had to have a pint with everybody in the pub. The drink was coming from all angles.

“When I retired, I was not prepared for the vacuum. I hung my boots up after I was taken off against Tyrone in 1994.

“I knew nothing else only football and was missing the Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays and playing on Sundays.

“It was a week of having nothing to do. I missed the lads, and I was probably lonely at the time.

“I found myself in a dark place for a while, but I found help and a lot of good people and got a lot of good advice and got through those dark days.

“I am glad I am here tonight and so happy with life tonight”.