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Jim McDonnell Of Cavan Fame Was One Of Ireland's Greatest Footballers Of His Era
Jim McDonnell was shouldered off Croke Park by Kerry players for a majestic display and whilst Cavan teams of the 1940's and 1950s produced many household names of gaelic football, amongst that galaxy of legends was former Cavan and Ulster captain, Jim McDonnnell. The Cavan supremo made his first Croke Park appearance in the All Ireland minor football semi final of 1952 when Cavan beat Cork, but lost to Galway in the final 2 – 9 to 1 - 6.
Jim was also Cavan’s minor captain for the 1953 Ulster championship. The senior selectors, keeping a keen eye on a fast emerging new talent, promoted Jim to the senior panel for the 1954 National Football League campaign. For the next eleven years Jim McDonnell became a permanent and vastly influential player in the royal blue jersey.
He won 4 Railway Cup medals and also captained Ulster to victory in 1963. Regretably, the elusive celtic cross that partners the winners of the Sam Maguire Cup, eluded Jim. That major disappointment was slightly redressed, when he was made captain of the Combined Universities on two occasions against the Rest of Ireland. Jim McDonnell also reversed his captaincy of the Combined Universities team, when made captain of the Rest of Ireland against his former student colleagues.
A significant event in Jim’s career took place in the All Ireland senior football semi final replay of 1955. A group of Kerry subs took Jim McDonnell shoulder high as they chaired him off the field. The Croke Park crowd rose to a man and gave the great Cavan player a standing ovation for his commanding display against the mighty Kingdom. Kerry won this memorable battle 2 - 10 to 1 - 13 and went on to win the Sam Maguire Cup.
Jim McDonnell also holds the unique distinction of saving and scoring a penalty in Croke Park. Few players, if any, have ever achieved this rare distinction. When Jim finally hung up his collection of provincial football medals and boots, he went on to represent Cavan on the Ulster Council. In 1970 he became a trustee at the annual congress in Bundoran, Co. Donegal.
This proud Cavan man gave a lifetime of dedicated service to the Gaelic Athletic Association. His deeds and feats are a symbol of his historic role in Cavan football over many decades.
Derry JF Doody