Donie calls it a day

Photo: Midwest Radio

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.

66 thoughts on “Donie calls it a day

  1. Best wishes on your retirement Donie. A dynamic and wholehearted player who could do a good job in most positions in defence. There for some of the great days. Will be missed.

  2. Donie made a wonderful contribution. His equalising point in the Gaelic grounds in 2014 to force extra time, his goal against Galway in 2013, and his performance in the drawn game against Dublin 2016 were some of the many highlights for me.
    I hope he enjoys his family life and club football. Also hope his business remains strong in the current climate.

    A wonderful player.

  3. The very best of luck to Donie on his retirement from inter county football. Seven Connacht medals is a fine haul and well deserved. Donie had a great engine and fully deserved his jersey every time he was called on to play. A couple or 3 more Donies required now to overcome the Dubs. Yes. I think Donal will always be named as having played on the greatest Mayo team there has been to this date. Thanks for your relentless desire to win.

  4. This guy will certainly be missed. I always felt good about Mayo’s chances when he played. A seriously consistent performer who always gave his best to Mayo. It’s no coincidence that Donies appearance on the Mayo scene along with a few more notables led to a sustained period of consistency at the highest level.
    What happened to him under the Cusack in the ’16 replay deserved more scrutiny but it did not suit the narrative and especially as it involved St. McCarthy. It was in my line of vision and it was disgusting. With Donies departure, Mayo had lost their two biggest linebreakers in Keegan and Vaughan and hence a massive part of Mayos gameplan was removed by McCarthy and Whelans rant about keegan on rte a week earlier while T O Se stayed schtum beside him. As for the red card, well that was an even bigger joke for what would normally be a talking to, it gave Dublin Joe an excuse to send off ballymuns finest.
    Enjoy retirement Donie knowing that you left everything on the pitch for Mayo.
    Thank you Sir.

  5. Such a pity another long time Mayo player to retire without winning the All Ireland.
    Donal always came good in finals, was selected in many different positions also.
    His finest hours were v Donegal in 2013, and was superb in the 2016 final, I think the drawn game, was a great driving force and picked off a few points also.

  6. Best wishes to Donie. I think our best years over the past decade were ’13 and ’14. We played some scintillating football at that time, and Donie was central to that. A powerful line-breaker, very hard to stop, and a terrific team player.

  7. Best of luck to Donal in his future after a fantastic intercounty career..Was an integral part of Mayo Senior Team for over a decade, mostly as part of the best halfback line up ever to have played the game, anyone who could establish himself as a fixture in that particular halfback line deserves his place in the hearts of Mayo and GAA fan’s in general… Tremendous stamina, athletic, could break the tackle as good as any Rugby player, could score…Met Donal many is the time, couldn’t meet nicer! … Donie Vaughan Legend!

  8. Best wishes to Donie a great servant to Mayo. He gave everything for the cause and it’s hard seeing him retire without an all ireland medal for his trouble. He will be missed.

  9. Best of luck Donie after the long career. Always got better as the summer rolled in. Had a very unorthodox kicking style and because of that his accuracy was underrated.

  10. Really enjoyed watching Donie playing at centre back, was a great man to break the line and show his great talent. The very best wishes to him for the future and thanks for the good times. A special talent.

  11. Enjoy the retirement Donal, a great player for Mayo over the past 12 years, his work and effort won’t be forgotten. IMO, he was part of the best HB line that has played the game, the power and pace that came from that line was unreal when they were at their peak, Keegan, Boyle and Vaughan.

  12. A great servant to Mayo Gaa. Will go down in the history books as one of the great Mayo half backs .
    The move to Castlebar from his home club Ballinrobe near the end of his career was divisive and unfortunate.

  13. Thanks for everything over the years Donal. A fantastic servant to the cause. Part of the most fearsome halfback line of their time. Thank you for the memories.

  14. Good man Donie. Thanks for the massive effort over the years. I always felt more confident when Donie was togged out. Take a bow and enjoy family life……that happens fast too……

  15. Thanks Donie for all your years of dedication to the cause. Some great days down the years. Big ‘shoes’ to fill but we have some fantastic talent coming hot on his heels. All the best for the future.

  16. Thanks Donal for all the effort you put in wearing the County Jersey. Almost all has been said above, but I’d like to add one more thing, HONESTY OF EFFORT. Whether things were going well for us or not on the field, Donal always put in an honest shift. Thank you Donal.

  17. This was already a horrible first day back at work and now Clarke retires! Best of luck to him. 20 years on the senior panel is some service.

  18. Best wishes to these two servants, Donie never got that consistency back after ’17 season, I always felt he was underrated. Clarkie was some hero, best shot stopper in the game for a long time. Not the day for it, but I suppose the Clarke/Hennelly debate will finally end. I wonder will Horan try out Byrne now or is there any keeper in the county to give a go?

  19. Clarke the GOAT of Mayo goalkeepers, will be sorely missed. He saved our bacon so many times over the years, most notably in the early stages against Tipp last month.

    Best of luck to Donie in his retirement, sweated blood for the cause.

  20. Irreplaceable – despite my giving out about him at times. This really is a blow.

    JH needs to cast the net(!) far and wide.

  21. Clarke is a HUGE loss. I assumed/hoped he would stay on till July and that a new keeper would be blooded in the league. He will no doubt be appreciated more when he is gone!
    The failure by successive managers to blood a new keeper will be sorely felt now.

    Thanks for 20 years of memories Clarkie. My stand out memory is his save from Brogan in 2012

  22. Brilliant player for Mayo. Tough, strong and full of running. He set the template for the now archetypal Mayo defender.

  23. Donie Vaughan was a true Warrior a personal favourite of mine and like Boyler he seemed to bulldoze through the Dubs to kick a vital score in big matches that would get one of those Mayo roars that would nearly have Croker shaking!! My favourite memory was how he drove us on in the second half of the drawn game against Kerry in 2014 and if you boiled down the best of our unstoppable (nearly manic) all out attacking running game under the first Horan term you would probably go no further than to look at Donie Vaughan. I will also never forget him throwing Donnacha Walsh into the stand in Limerick in the replay when Kerry tried to get physical early on and his quote to the press when asked about being born in Cork before a league final “Cork by birth, Mayo by the grace of God” is priceless!!

    Clarkie is probably the best goalkeeper we ever had (he saved I think 3 penalties in one league campaign) and he was always by Mayo fans even when complaining by about his kickouts. It is no accident that Ger Caff and Brendan Harrison won All Stars when Clarkie was between the sticks as he was almost like a second full back for us at times especially in the air. What makes him great though is the only weakness in his game which was his kickouts was never a fatal problem in the big pressure games as shown in his last ever championship game for the county and I think way too many got hung up on the flight or trajectory or the look of his kickouts whe all that matters is more often than not it went to the man in the Mayo jersey. Did he kick a couple of crucial kickouts over the sideline, yeah but so does every keeper even the greatest of the all Cluxton has!!!
    I am not as worried about Clarkie’s inevitable exit now as I was a few years ago as I think Luke Jennings, Matthew Flanagan and Colm Reape will insure that our goalkeeping standards will not drop off over the next 5 or 10 years. Also we won’t have to bored to death endless analysis of how much or how high or low or whatever the velocity is of Clarkies kickouts anymore eh Willie Joe!! Hahaha!!

  24. Aww man Clarke really is an absolutely massive loss. Hot on the heels of his best performance in an AI Final also

    Definitely the best shot stopper I’ve seen in my lifetime. Kickouts were obviously an achilles heel in his game, but his ability under the high ball, the way he can spread himself so well when in a one on one situation with an attacker – narrowing their angle on goal, and his sheer experience and leadership, more than made up for it. His presence will be sorely missed for many years to come i feel

    Only for him there would have been no all ireland final appearance in 2012 – who knows, had Dublin caught us that day, would we have gone on to become the side we did in the 2010s? He also rescued us hugely in Limerick last year saving a penalty from Liam Silke, which again probably won us the match. That and his save from Brogan were only two of his many career highlights – and what a career it was

    And while he has only been a bit part player for the past few seasons Vaughan also leaves us with many fond memories. Who could forget his trademark lung bursting runs forward, his many crucial scores, his versatility and his sheer strength and physicality. Very much an underrated player on the whole, and i always got the impression the big games got the best out of him. Again what a career

    Sadly I’ll be amazed if more don’t follow. Very much in a rebuilding period now, and i think we could well be entering a period of real inconsistency similar to the 00s again – especially given the improving fortunes of our two big Connacht rivals

  25. The exodus continues as I hear on RTE radio that David Clarke has called it a day. Truly the end of an era. David was a truly dedicated player. In his early days he was kept out of the Ballina team by the incumbent, and was he also club secretary, John Healy. I don’t think that Healy ever played for Mayo, maybe a game or two, but Clarke hung in there and got his reward with both Ballina and Mayo. His courage under a high ball was remarkable. There was no holding back, Clarkie was coming for it and invariably Clarkie got it away out of danger whether he caught it or fisted it away. I still think he had another year or two in him but it is his judgement and he of all players owes us absolutely nothing.
    Good luck David and enjoy life from here on.

  26. Best of luck to Vaughan and Clarke, 2 huge servants who left it all on the pitch.
    I have been one of Clarkes biggest critics so only right I give credit where its due and acknowledge a flawless kicking performance from him in the final.
    Forces our hand bow tho to get out there and find a brand new number 1.

    I suspect there will be more retirements over the next week, by now jh will be putting together pre season plans and will have told any of the older guard if they are likely to feature or not

  27. The best of luck to David Clarke. His early save against Tipperary, full stretch, arched backwards and down at boot level is one of the finest saves I ever saw.
    I hope David is kept on in some capacity with Mayo. His command in the square and his ability to know when to spread out the body was second to none and I feel he could pass on alot of his goalkeeping qualities to the younger lads learning their trade.
    A huge thank you for his many years minding our nets. The safest hands in Gaelic football.

  28. AndyD, well said about Clarke. I am so sorry to hear this bad news for Mayo. But he knows best and owes us nothing. What a keeper! Always gave it his all. And what memories for us to treasure. We’ll do well to find his equal.
    Likewise Donie, on whom I have commented earlier. What men . Thank you for all you have done for the cause and enjoy your rest. You deserve it.

  29. Two down and how many more to go. Might be the right time for a few more to hang up the boots, they are not going to get much game time in the next year, if any, Its a young mans game , let a few more new faces make up the panel and match day 26. If the young fellows make the matchday panel it might just give that extra push they might need to make the team. The future is a younger team, so let it happen now. Thanks for the great memories boys.

  30. Well done David Clarke on a brilliant career. Your last game in a Mayo shirt was one of your best. A superb display.
    Same to Donal Vaughan. Sad to see you go. What a half back line with Donal leading the charge. Blackgarded in 2016 by a dublin centered ref. 2 footballers that represented Mayo during an era of great success. You have given us great days and we thank you and wish all the best for your future paths.

  31. David Clarke a big big loss and even bigger gloves went out on top brilliant championship , god knows his patience was tried and tested under different managers the no1 goalie thanks a million Big man !

  32. Jesus 2 big players gone and afraid to say more will follow, They owe mayo nothing but we owe them. All past mayo players, especially those in the last decade have risen the bar to extraordinary levels. The new lads to wear the green and red have seen nothing but unbelievable resilience. To be the best they can be! We are blessed to have witnessed them in action.
    I salute ye!
    Mayo forever

  33. Two great servants of Mayo GAA and best of luck to them. While Donie’s appearances were sporadic the last few seasons, David was still no.1. I’d had hoped he would stay on another year or two so as to give some time to get Reape or Jennings up to speed. He was without a doubt the best under the high ball & shot stopping in the country. Eamonn Fitz in his piece a few weeks ago said how amazed he was at Clarkes organization of his defence, always talking and giving instructions. He will be missed. It should also be noted that both lads are based in the west. Imagine how difficult it is for the likes of Chris Barrett and Seamie O’Shea travelling from Dublin. I expect a few more to go in the next month or two.

  34. Happy retirement to two stalwart servants who gave great service to their county.
    Karl Lacey has left the Donegal mgmt ticket.
    He would in my view add massively to our mgmt ticket as a defensive coach. We need something new in defence.

  35. Something we probably dont even consider as well is that a lot of these lads from our golden generation are now in their early/mid 30s and likely starting families and having kids. I know kev, donie and chris have recently had kids for starters.

    Its nearly impossible to add raising kids on top of the already crazy commitment levels needed at the highest level now, when i had my kiddie i found it impacted hugely on my football commitments, energy levels, sleep etc
    The thoughts of juggling that with county commitments seems unthinkable to me

    Its a young mans game now for sure

  36. @JP…
    Good shout on Lacey there, it wouldnt neccesarily have to be lacey but always worth adding an outside voice to things, freshen things up. McEntee and Donie Buckley added a huge amount by all accounts.
    If its just one man calling all the shots i think thats a bit old school

  37. John Healy started a Connacht final for Mayo in 2006 AndyD and was our number 1 throughout that year until the QF replay v Laois iirc (when he was replaced by Clarke who also started the semi and final)

    This was despite Clarke actually being number 1 for Ballina at the time

  38. I just don’t think we have the defensive expertise in the county. Aidan ORourke had some good analysis on our defending. Take in a voice from a Donegal, Tryone or Dublin. A defensively sound team and a coach that was involved or knows what to coach and how to coach it.

  39. We have been blessed with great goalies over the years from Eugene Rooney onwards. We have had very few good full backs or cener half backs. Center forwards have always been a problem for us, one like Tre or Giles or Paraic J0yce who always seemed to have that extra second to look up for the correct pass.

  40. Talking about Lacey JP, is there any update on where Pearse Hanley actually is, right now? Has he come back to Ireland? Could he be… dare I say it?

  41. It’s hard to see good men moving on. By God they were among the best, not just in Mayo but wherever the game is played. Seeing Donie and David on a team sheet had a sense of strength and stability and knowing they are not there really makes me wonder who is going to step into their shoes. I just want to say thank you Donie and David for your dedication to our county, our team and our pride. It is a huge loss, indeed but I know your example has inspired many others. You guys epitomised what it means to be from Mayo. You are super role models and you do your talking on the field. I will miss you both, greatly. I am not despondent but grateful for all you have given. I wish you and your families and all you love every success and happiness. And I pray that one day, soon, we will all celebrate that first victory in the game that matters most. It is coming closer. Thank you. Maigheo go deo!!

  42. @Catcol, Pearce Hanley is still in Australia. He doesn’t have anything to contribute at this point on or off pitch.

  43. Ah lads, the Pearse Hanley ship has well and truly sailed. Once lads get settled over in Oz long-term, they are unlikely to come back. Tadhg Kennelly was an exception that proves the rule.

  44. Best of luck to both David and Donie. 2 legends of the game who owe Mayo GAA nothing!

  45. I too would have criticises Clarkie’s kickouts (only),everything else was top drawer. Then he gets everything spot on ,and we lose him. He’s only a youngfella compared to the lad in the pale,but all we can do is wish him and Donie the best of luck in family & career. Of course David moving on brings the full back position into sharp focus again also. David’s presence under the high ball was valuable, especially when we didn’t have huge lads around the square so maybe we now have a few problem positions again as most of the rest of our top keepers,with the exception of Rory Byrne aren’t huge either. Interesting times ahead.

  46. Best wishes to David and his family on his retirement. A great goalkeeper and a great Mayo man. There were times when a lesser man might have walked away in disgust but not David.

  47. – Thanks to both Men for their dedication and service to Mayo football over many years. Donie always gave 110% while David pulled off brilliant saves in key games.
    – Now there are no excuses a new goalkeeper has to be added to the panel.

  48. Best wishes to both David and Donie and thanks for all the good memories. Both were outstanding servants to the green and red

  49. No need to bring in Lacey or any other outsider to help the team. Bring in David Brady to put a bit of dirt and steel in the team ,especially the defence with Vaughan gone and Boyle and Barrett and Higgins more than likely not getting much game time going forward. .

  50. David brady ffs, lol. Now ive heard it all. Let that lad concentrate on his media career

  51. Outsiders, outsiders, are these the same outsiders who conceded less goals than us per game?
    Are these the same outsiders who produced defensive units rather than individuals?
    Yes, Bull, it’s them outsiders.

  52. I see Mayo county board are looking for nominations for u20 and u17 managers.
    U20 is probably a more important grade now with minor gone down to u17.
    Who are the likely candidates for u20 managers job?
    Ray Dempsey?Andy Moran? Ex Ballintubber manager- can’t think if his name? Stephen Rochford probably staying with Donegal. Pat Fallon from Balla?

  53. Two great men gone and how they will be missed. Helped give us some of the greatest days of our lives. Clarke was so reliable for us all up in the stands Imagine what it must have been like for our full back line down through the years knowing that even if you made a mistake Clarkie was there to bail you out. My favorite save was his stop from Brogan in the closing minutes of 2012 semi final. Donie rampaging Up the field as part of one of the best half back lines in history. Look at the amount of scores he got including v Galway and Donegal In 2013, his point to take the 2014 replay into extra time and a colossal performance in AI final 2016. In the replay he was taken out of it and then Leeroy got black card. 2017 final will not be a happy memory but I am sure what happened to him in 2016 was still on his mind and he was not prepared to take any more shit from the great Dubs. We owe so much to these guys and Andy and indeed the raft of inevitable retirements which will follow. We have good young lads coming through the ranks now but if they’re anything like our 30 somethings we will be blessed. Thanks for the memories lads and happy retirement. Well deserved. Maigh Eo abu.

  54. David Clarke’s loss is immense a giant in the square a gentleman on and off the pitch stopped me one night in tubbercury a mans man a true old fashioned gent full back and goalie bate into one commanded the square was always gonna get ball n sometimes the man with it two full backs winning all stars with him in goal is a measure yes big man your gonna be sorely missed best of luck to you and family , end of chapter but not the book god bless you david and thanks ?

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