Donal Vaughan said today it was “with a heavy heart” that he was announcing his retirement from inter-county football at the age of 32. It’s a sentiment that many Mayo supporters will share, as another member of the consistently competitive team James Horan fashioned in his first tenure as Mayo manager calls time on his inter-county career.
Having represented the county at Minor and U21 levels, Donie was given his Senior debut by John O’Mahony in the first round of the National League against Derry in February 2009. He made his first Championship appearance at Senior level in the match against New York at Gaelic Park in May that same year.
Donie went on to make 117 appearances for us – 58 in the Championship – in the years since then. As Kieran Shannon in the Irish Examiner notes (here), from 2012 onwards, along with Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle, he was part of “probably the finest half-back line in the game.”
Posting three points from play at centre-back against Kerry in the 2011 semi-final, he went on to enjoy a brilliant summer campaign in 2013. Central to our hard-running attacking style, he walked two memorable goals into the net that year, as Galway and Donegal were put to the sword in emphatic fashion.
His finest performance, though, was probably the drawn All-Ireland final of 2016, his display that day only overshadowed by the peerless Cillian O’Connor who bagged the game’s late, late equaliser. His departure from the fray at half-time in the replay – after an off the ball hit – didn’t help our cause in a match of such fine margins.
In the following year’s final his red card for a strike on Dublin’s John Small, who was himself about to go on a second yellow, robbed us of a numerical advantage coming down the closing stretch. It’s hard to know, in truth, what bearing that might have had on the result that day.
In more recent times Donie’s appearances have been restricted due to recurring injuries, though he did line out in our National League decider against Kerry in 2019. His final appearance for the county came in that year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
In his twelve years as a Senior inter-county player, Donie won seven Connacht medals and a National League medal. He also won provincial medals at Minor and U21 levels.
The official Mayo GAA statement following Donie’s announcement is here.
As he leaves the inter-county stage, Donie deserves heartfelt thanks from Mayo supporters everywhere for his many years of service and his contribution to some of the finest performances by the county that we’ve all been privileged to witness. Thanks for the memories, Donie, and best wishes for the future.