THE life of one of Donegal’s best known soccer personalities Colm McBride is celebrated in a book which has been compiled by former players.
Colm MacGiolla Bhríde – Bailiúchán Cuimhní ar Shaol Peile – is a collection of memories of the former Gweedore Celtic manager who passed away peacefully in Lake House Nursing Home, Portnablagh, in January.
A life-long fan of Glasgow Celtic and the Republic of Ireland soccer team, Colm Phaidí Jimí from Middletown, Gaoth Dobhair, led Celtic to four Donegal League titles (1979, ‘83, ‘85 and ‘86) and numerous cup successes.
Colm’s enduring philosophy is reflected in the testimonies throughout the book, all of which demonstrate vividly his vision of ‘total football’.
A founding member of the Donegal Schools Football Association, Colm was also instrumental in the establishment of the Donegal League.
Indeed, Donegal junior football owes Colm McBride a considerable debt as he helped to drive much of the early development.
Author and retired BBC sports broadcaster Richie Kelly said that Colm McBride was one of Donegal’s great football men.
“He was intelligent, well-read, articulate and had a wide range of diverse interests. A large part of his being was an intense passion for football, and he devoted a considerable slice of his life to managing the local football team, Gweedore Celtic,” he wrote.
“As a manager Colm was not a shouter, nor indeed a user of foul language. His approach was to gently cajole his young team, virtually all of whom he had coached from schoolboy football upwards, into a formidable unit,” he recalled.
Hughie ‘Rua’ Gallagher, Doalty Sweeney, John Barr, Donnchadh MacNiallais, Donal McGee, Padraig and Gerry Coyle and the late Pat Doohan are just a few names which still roll off the tongue today.
The majority of the successful Donegal League teams who contested inter-league competitions in those early years was made up of Gweedore Celtic players.
In football, doing well and doing the right thing are not always the same.
Former players remembered a man who set them off on a good path in life, someone who gave them confidence and belief in themselves. His knowledge of the game and man management skills were stand out features worthy of a high-level manager.
“Our training sessions were famous for its intensity, focus and enjoyment. His ‘modern day’ coaching and team tactics were way ahead of its time and we as players were the beneficiaries.
“The greatest success were the friendships that we made, friendships that last forever,” Gerry Coyle wrote.
His brother Padraig said that training sessions were interesting, enjoyable and focused.
“How many times did we hear Colm say ‘if you can’t pass you can’t play’. Our training sessions at “ar an Tra Dhearg” using the car lights as floodlights were tough. However, they were very enjoyable,” he added.
Seamus Given, father of former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, Mickey Gibbons and Bosco Gallagher were just three of the players trusted to wear the No 1 jersey in those early years.
Gerard McBride, from Kilmacrennan, recalled how his mother was persuaded by Colm to allow him to join Gweedore Celtic as a 15-year old while Paschal Cullen, Letterkenny, said that Colm has given him confidence in his own ability as a young footballer.
Cornelius McFadden said Colm was a coach, a scholar, a motivator and a visionary while John Anthony McGeady said Colm was a big fan of wingers, especially greedy ones!
Donal McGee said that Colm had a massive influence on al the lads who played for Gweedore Celtic instilling a love of football, training and discipline which they carry to this day.
“We were so lucky to have him in our youthful years and later on. He will be sadly missed,” Donal wrote.
A former teacher in Letterkenny Vocational School, Colm spent a number of years living in Spain where he was a fan of Barcelona.
Colm McBride left a great legacy and this book, written by the players for the players, provides a fitting tribute to his memory and the template is one which could, and should, by used by other sporting bodies in the future.