DONEGAL SENIOR football manager Declan Bonner paid a touching tribute to the late Manus Kelly last night.
As Bonner led Donegal back into Donegal having been crowned Ulster champions yesterday, the Donegal manager told of the mixed emotions in the group following the tragic death of Glenswilly man Kelly.
Kelly lost his life as a result of a horror crash as he competed in this year’s Donegal International – an event he won in each of the previous three years.
News filtered through just over an hour before throw-in in the Ulster final.
Tributes have been pouring in for the popular county councillor, businessman, rally driver and county councillor.
“I knew Manus Kelly very well,” Bonner said at the homecoming in Donegal Town.
“It was very, very difficult, I have to say.”
Kelly was deeply immersed in the Glenswilly GAA club and was managed them to a Senior C Championship win in 2016.
Kelly was a club-mate of Donegal captain Michael Murphy. News of the tragedy was conveyed to the Donegal dressing room after their win over Cavan in the Ulster final and the mood was sombre as they processed the news.
Murphy did not attend the homecoming with vice-captain Hugh McFadden carrying the Anglo-Celt into Donegal Town and addressing the crowd.
Bonner said: “The players were kept away from it.
“Manus wasn’t just a rally person. He went into politics and he was a real, massive Donegal GAA follower. It was difficult to keep it from the Glenswilly guys, who were very close to him.
“There is a feeling of mixed emotions. Last year, it was great to be back in charge personally and win against Fermanagh.
“There are mixed emotions for the group, for the Kelly family, who are massive Donegal GAA followers.”
Yesterday morning, MK Rallying’s Facebook page posted a picture of Manus Kelly and his co-driver Donall Barrett holding a Donegal flag with the message: ‘Best of luck to Donegal today from Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett💚💛’
This evening, the Donegal County Board released the following statement: “Our sympathies are with the family of Manus Kelly, his friends and his close associates in CLG Gleann tSúilí following his tragic death yesterday.
“Donegal reveres its sporting hero’s and Manus was certainly one of those. While motor rallying was his chosen sport he also had a special association with the GAA through his involvement with Glenswilly as a player, manager and coach and he was a quiet and unsung, but generous, sponsor of the county team.
“He was one of life’s gentlemen and will be sorely missed by all. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”