Well known Ardara man John McConnell was left heart-broken by the news of the tragic death of Tomás Maguire in Australia.
Here John recalls a young man full of fun, full of life and with everything to live for.
He speaks for all of Co Donegal when he laments the sudden loss of a young man who had his entire life ahead of him.
“I sit here tonight stunned and heartbroken at the tragic loss of our friend and teammate Tomás Maguire. Having coached Tomás from the first time he landed down in Kentucky as an 8 year old until he left the Minor ranks, it’s hard to fathom that the wee buck with the cheeky grin and the heart of a lion is no longer with us. We are just heartbroken.
“I last spoke with Tomás about a week before he left, He was looking forward to a new adventure..”Heading to Oz John” he said, “Looking forward to it, should be good crack..”. I told him to take care of himself over there, “Join the nearest club and you will never be stuck for work” I said..” No bother John” he said and we left it at that.
“But really and truly, we all probably knew that once he headed away, he wouldn’t be back to live at home for long enough.He had a wanderlust that he had to satisfy and get out of his system.He started off his football career as a key member of the 1996/97 Under-10 teams that went on to win County League and Championships at Under-12, Under-14 ,16 and Minor (league).
“Tomás now joins his great friend from that team, Shaun Gallagher who was taken from us in 2004 at the age of 17. That team had a great bond of friendship that lasts to this day.
“As the years went on, Tomas just got better and better as a player.
“When the team reached their last year at Minor in 2005, he was chosen to captain the team, and boy was he chuffed..
“He took the job completely to heart and was man of the match in every single game we played, and despite a heroic performance at full back in the County Minor Final, he couldnt prevent a strong Killybegs team from finally getting one over on us for the first time.
“It was the biggest regret we had, that he didn’t get to lift the Domhnaill Mac a Bhaird cup after the effort he had put in that year.
“He was devastated after that defeat. He had some consolation though when he won both the Minor and Reserve Player of the Year Awards at the dinner dance that year.
“Tomas drifted a bit after that, he was keen to join the army, but it didn’t work out. He eventually came back to the field, and was soon a key member of our senior team. What a player, such pace, great hands and those surging runs out of defence.
“It was no surprise that Jim McGuinness came calling in 2011 to join the panel, but Tomas wasn’t really into that end of things..he loved playing for the green and gold, but there was also a good time to be had, girls to be wooed and he was as good at that as he was a footballer.
“But that was Tomas, it didn’t matter what odd wee scrape he got into, he was still that lovable rogue that you couldn’t put down or say a bad word about.
“We can’t imagine what the Maguire family are going through, so soon after the loss of Martina, or the Egan Family who have also suffered terribly over the years.
“We will do our best to support Eileen,Eunan, Tara, Claire, Eunan Jr and Darryl.
“We will miss you Tomas and we will do our very best to give you the send off you deserve.
“We will drape the jersey over your coffin, and we will talk about the great player you were, and the mighty player you would have become when you eventually would come back to captain the Ardara Senior team to try and win the Dr Maguire Cup.
“Don’t forget to say hello to Briney for us, and wee Michael McNelis as well. We will miss you terribly, but for as long as the sun sets on the Pearse Memorial we will never forget you. Take care of yourself.” John McConnell.