By Denis O’Hara
Just heard the sad news of an old friend and college classroom colleague, Alex McDonnell of Portglenone has passed on. He was buried yesterday (Monday May 18).
May he rest in peace, a true gentleman.
Like myself, Alex was a first year student when St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower opened for business in September 1951.
He was a natural sportsman, gifted especially in playing Gaelic football.
A tricky winger he once represented a Con Magee’s Minor team in the late 1950’s.
I think, but not sure, he also made the Antrim minor football teams of 1956 and 1957.
I believe he first played senior club football with the Roger Casements GAC Portglenone, before switching to play for the St Mary’s Ahoghill football team.
During his five-year boarding stint at Garron Tower he competed for the College in Rannafast Cup, Corn-na nOg Cup and MacRory Cup teams. He was a clever soccer player in a fun college competition: also a very evasive slip and slide boxer for a spell at the Tower, before the gloves were confiscated.
Alex, just to prove his versatility, took up the game of hurling, and was a member of the Tower team that retained the Ulster Colleges senior hurling title in 1955.
Alex is back row right.
Back Row-L to R: Danny McAloonan, Patsy Black, Sean Feeney, Alex Thompson, Denis O’Hara, Jim Mitchell, Alex McDonnell. FRONT: Anthony Logan,Thomas Gillen, Jim McGrath, Willie Devlin (Capt), Paddy McGuckian, Dan Gillen.
Alex progressed from the Tower to attend Queens University. He was a member of the QUB squad that won the 1958 Sigerson Cup. Unfortunately, he took ill during the tournament, and did not feature in the final matches. Thankfully, the quiet man was later presented a Sigerson Cup winner’s medal.
Alex qualified as a schoolteacher, and his work career included a lengthy spell at St Louis Convent, Ballymena. An avid and skillful golfer, he was a long-serving member of Kilrea Golf Club, and also competed in the annual Garron Tower Past Pupils’ golf championship, often staged at Moyola Park.