By Damian Dolan
Parnells ladies manager Tommie Donohue is determined to go out on a high after confirming that this will more than likely be his fiftieth and final year involved with London GAA.
Donohue, who has played and managed numerous clubs in London over the past five decades, says he’ll bring the curtain down at the end of Parnells’ All-Ireland run.
The provincial and London champions face Sligo’s St Nathy’s in the All-Ireland Club IFC quarter-final at McGovern Park on Saturday (1pm).
If they lose, Donohue feels the time is right to “take a step back”.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but more this year than any other,” Donohue told the Irish World.
“And it’s a good time to finish; we’re London champions, provincial champions and played in the World Games final.
“I don’t know what I have to prove anymore – we’ve won it all. It’s time I took a bit of time for myself.”
Arriving in London one Friday in September 1969, by the Sunday Donohue was hurling with Robert Emmetts.
He’s been “engrossed” in the GAA in London ever since, playing for and managing numerous club, as well as guiding London ladies to All-Ireland success in 1993.
As a player and manager, he estimates he’s won 50-60 championships.
A dual player for London for many years, Brian Boru and Parnells were his clubs.
He managed Neasden, as well as London’s hurlers, and served as chair of the ladies provincial board.
You name it, Donohue’s probably done it.
Amongst his proudest achievements was undoubtedly guiding Parnells ladies – a team he first took the reins of in 1992 – to All-Ireland club success in 2012. It’s a feat he’d dearly love to repeat.
“It would be a great way to finish off, but it’s a big ask. But the bigger the obstacle, the more you enjoy it,” said Donohue.
“We’ll give it our best shot and if we win this one [St Nathy’s], I wouldn’t fear going anywhere.”
Donohue has never been short of confidence – his infectious enthusiasm and sureness has always rubbed off on those who’ve pulled on the Parnells shirt over the years.
This year, they’ve been a team on a mission. Their London and All-Britain titles – in which they defeated Round Towers in both finals – were the club’s first since 2016.
The only one to get away from them was the World Games final at Croke Park, but the All-Ireland remains within their grasp.
All-Ireland champions in 2012, the club competed at senior level in 2013 and 2014, but were forced to withdraw in 2015.
Back at intermediate in 2016, they did the double (London and All-Britain) before beating Leinster champions Naomh Ciaran of Offaly in the quarter-finals by 3-11 to 1-5.
They then came up just short in the semis, losing to Armagh’s Shane O’Neills by just three points (3-7 to 1-10).
Niamh O’Brien, Maria King, Hannah Noonan, Helen Hughes, Renee Murphy and Ciara Dempsey all remain.
Donohue believes they can give the competition a good “rattle” once again, but they’ll have to do it without London’s Niamh Walsh, who broke her collarbone in the All-Britain final.
They’ll also be missing goalscorer Alice O’Brien, who is unavailable. It’s a double-blow and leaves Donohue with just a 17 strong panel to pick from. It’s significantly less than he’d like.
Veteran Maria King and Amy Savage, are expected to come back in.
He may also be forced to call upon the services of 57-year-old Patricia O’Brien, who won five All Stars – three for London (1992-94) and two for Cavan. At this stage, Donohue is refusing to rule anything out.
He remains confident, though, that Parnells can get the job done against the Sligo champions.
“It’s going to be very, very tough, but I believe we’ll win in,” he said.
“If we get through, it will be a great achievement – St Nathy’s are one of the strongest teams in the competition.
“But as far as the girls are concerned, we’re Parnells and we won’t get beaten.”