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Vincent Hogan: His relationship with his dad was up and down, but Donaghy knows he was proud of him

It was Gold Cup Friday and, somehow, the sight of a northern number coming up on his phone brought Kieran Donaghy an instant sense of foreboding.

"I knew straight away," he says. His aunt's voice counselled that she had "bad news" and he didn't really need to be enlightened on the detail. Donaghy knew his father was dead.

They'd had an up-and-down relationship across the years, Kieran watching a man who "wasn't a bad guy" acquire the habit of breaking promises, cursed -- as he was -- by an excessive appetite for alcohol and gambling.

Oliver Donaghy ended his days living alone in a flat in Omagh, a victim of his own choices.

"My relationship with him, at times, wouldn't have been great," Kieran reflects candidly. "At other times, it would have been good. We could be good friends, then we'd fall out over something. He'd do something that'd annoy me."

A case in point was during the build-up to the '08 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Tyrone. Kieran beseeched Oliver not to feed the media curiosity for the player with a parent in each county.

The day before the game, they were on the team bus when another player produced a tabloid, featuring a two-page spread on the father of the Kerry full-forward.

Oliver was pictured wearing a jersey that was half-Kerry, half- Tyrone.

The attendant article was unremarkable, but it carried a father's insinuation that his other children were also good enough to play football for Kerry. The insinuation was well intended, but exposed Kieran's siblings to ridicule.

"He had everything," reflects Donaghy now. "He had a great family, a fantastic wife and ended up losing that. I felt sorry for him more than anything else. He just f****d up his life and ended up in a one-room apartment with his dog."

The dog, Buddy, has now taken up permanent residence in Tralee with Kieran and his fiancee, Hilary (they get married in January).

After hearing of Oliver's death, Kieran was discouraged from travelling north immediately as the body had to be taken to Belfast for a post-mortem.


So he played that Sunday in a National League game against Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, before heading to Tyrone for what would be a three-day wake.

"Look, he (Oliver) travelled the length and breadth of the country looking at football," Kieran explains.

"There was a minute's silence for him that day in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"It was obviously sad but, at the same time, I could imagine him thinking, 'it's great that they're all standing up for me.' He'd have been delighted with that.

"There was one stage I might have been getting a bit upset, but fellas were all around me, patting me, telling me I'd be okay. And it's great to have that in guys. They're great team-mates, great men. They're another family to me."

Irish Independent