Brian retires from a lifetime of service to the GAA

Brian McEn8ff epitomises what is good about Donegal, not least Donegal GAA. Last weekend he stepped down as chairman of his beloved Bundoran, after giving a lifetime of service. We wish Brian a well deserved break, as he embarks on a new chapter.

Sporting a jacket with a Donegal crest on the right and Realt na Mara on the left, 81 years young Brian McEniff made his final bow as a football administrator, over sixty years since he was appointed club secretary at Clann na Gael, Toronto in 1962. Resigning from his second stint as Cathaoirleach for his beloved Realt na Mara, Bundobhráin on Friday night, he also served as Secretary and Treasurer. A new generation will lead Bundoran next year – Tommy Hourihane taking over as chairperson and Bernadette Feely as Treasurer.  

Since his return from Toronto in 1966, where he won 3 football championships, 4 football leagues and two hurling championships, Brian gave 57 un-interrupted years of service to club, county, province and country with the same enthusiasm to coaching Realt u-10s as shown to managing Donegal to Ulster and All-Ireland titles and the International Rules team to victory in Australia. At Provincial level, he managed the Ulster Railway Cup squad from 1983 to 2007 winning thirteen titles to add to the two medals he won as a player. He was also an All-Star – picked at left half back in 1972. 

It wouldn’t happen today, but at the 1971 Convention, at the age of 29 and with no previous managerial experience, he became both Donegal minor manager and player-manager of the senior squad. He led them to their first ever Ulster title in 1972, followed by their second in 1974. He returned thrice more to win Ulster titles in 1983, 1990 and 1992, also leading Donegal to their first ever All-Ireland in that year. In 2003, he relinquished the County Chairmanship, managing Donegal to an the All-Ireland semi-final where they nearly upset the odds against reigning champions Armagh. 

At club level he won seven senior Donegal championship medals with St Josephs, a Bundoran-Ballyshannon combined team, that also won a pilot, but unofficial, All-Ireland Club Championship in 1968. St Joseph’s disbanded in 1977, the same year Brian captained Bundoran to the inaugural Donegal Intermediate championship – he was club chairman when they last won it in 2015. In 1978, with Brian at wing half back,  Bundoran won the Senior League title and the Senior championship in 1979. 

He may be gone from the top table but Brian will still be found almost every Saturday selling Bunotto at SuperValu, popping in briefly to most Realt Senior club training sessions and will remain a familiar figure at club and county fixtures, starting with Donegal v Roscommon this weekend at the opening of Father Tierney Park in Ballyshannon.