Don set to retire after 25 years with local club

The current Dons squad with their manager Don McMahon.
The current Dons squad with their manager Don McMahon.

Well known local football manager, Don McMahon, formed The Dons some 24 years ago.

Despite originally intending to keep the team going for just a year, Don has been at the helm since then.

With his 25th anniversary approaching next year, Don has announced he will retire after he reaches that milestone.

However, Don will not cut ties completely with the club, but he knows that he will be leaving the team in good hands.

Taking us through the history of The Dons, Don explained: “I started the team with a bunch of fella’s when I was 40. The idea was to play for a year. It was like a last throw of the dice type thing.

“At the first league meeting the boys said it would be a good idea to go for a year.

“My younger brother John, who has since passed away, was our first captain and our first Player of the Year.

“I started the team up for John,” Don added.

“We just said we’d play for a year together, some friends joined in. We’d no name, someone said ‘what’s the name?’ and John said, ‘Call us The Don’s’. Since we were only going for a year we all agreed.

“For our first match we had eight players and I was sat making phone calls to get people to play,” Don said.

“We played our first match in Wallace Park in 1991 and were beaten by Wesley Seconds 6-0.

“We entered the Lisburn League in 1991 and that was the start of The Don’s.

“We didn’t win our first game for the whole season. Our first win was against Lambeg Star at Kirkwoods Road in the 1991/92 season and we won 2-1,” Don reminisced.

“That first year was an experience,” Don commented. “It was just fun, we didn’t win too many games but we enjoyed ourselves, it was a bit of craic.

“One thing led to another and boys started coming to us. We held our own in the Third Division and by 1993 we had a half decent side.

“In 1994 we won promotion to the Second Division and that same year we reached the Leader Shield Final, playing Kingsway who beat us 4-1.”

Don continued: “We were then promoted to the First Division and in 1998/99 we reached the Sloan Cup Semi Final in Lisburn, which we lost on penalties.”

However, Don says his teams throughout the years have simply enjoyed their football.

“The team has a good vibe about it and everyone enjoyed the football. We’ve has American’s play here, Spanish, English, Scottish, Asian’s, Polish, it’s just a real mixture.

“I’ve never had a fall out or a disagreement. I have an easy going attitude and have kept one or two boys off the street after being approached by parents.

“It’s been a pleasure; we haven’t won too many matches but we’ve had plenty of fun along the way.”

The Don’s left the Lisburn League in 1999 to join the Mid Ulster League, where they’ve fluctuated between the Third and Fourth Divsions, currently plying their trade in the Fourth Division.

Don stated: “We haven’t got too many medals but I have a lot of memories of good times and good lads.

“In 2013 we reached the Magee Cup final against Cookstown Celtic, which we again lost on penalties.

“I’ve enjoyed my time and my better half Monica has been fantastic. She’s washed the kits over the past 24 years and has never moaned and had to listen to me if things hadn’t gone well.

“The present day lads are brilliant. Carl Toman has been our captain for the past three years.

“Next year will finish me as manager but I will still stay with the club. It’s been a one man band, I’m quite old fashioned, I’ve been Secretary, Treasurer, Chairman, Manager. That will obviously change and people will take on those roles but I’ve got a good set of fella’s here; Ricky McGreevy, Cormac McKenna, Colly McCarroll, Simon Hudgens, Mark French, Dave Smith, and they will hopefully take over.

“I’ll still be there, it will be hard to walk away completely, but it’s time to hand over the mantle. I’ve done my 25 years. I have no regrets in my life or my football, I’d do it all over again and do exactly the same thing.

“I’m looking forward to taking a back seat and being there for advice,” Don said.

“I think when I do finish it will be a very happy occasion and a very sad occasion. It’s the end of an era, even though I’ll still be there.

“We want to get the old players back for an Anniversary dinner and have a charity match to celebrate our 25 years.

“I think it’s a great achievement to get 25 years with the club and I hope the club carries on - I won’t let the club fold. I’ll be Technical Director of Football, or some special title like that,” Don laughed.

The Dons Captain Carl Toman was keen to pay tribute to Don.

“On behalf of myself and everybody else in the Dons squad, we all appreciate the work and dedication Don puts in for his team.

“He’s always there for any advice if any is needed - and not just to do with football.

“We all play for him each week and know it hurts him on a Saturday night if we lose in the afternoon. We all feel Don should be recognised for his efforts,” Carl added.