Former player programme article - Tommy McDonald

Posted : 5th April 2020

During this period of enforced football inactivity will provide occasional programme articles on our former players.

The series commenced last week with an article on Jim Lemon and in this second one in the series we recall Tommy McDonald.

by James Kennedy

From delivering letters to having letters after his name. That’s how it was for former Linfield defender Tommy McDonald.

“While delivering mail and playing football, I completed a degree in Business Management, which means I now don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to go to work!”

Tommy’s early days were spent playing for local teams in South Belfast, before he moved to Lisburn Youth where he first met up with lifelong friend John Easton.

“We played in a strong Lisburn Youth team, and John is the most underrated player I know”.

Tommy then joined Distillery, working his way through the ranks alongside future stars like Jim Magilton and George O’Boyle, and he was soon a regular in the 1st team.

“The senior squad was packed with characters like Bertie McMinn and Marty Quinn, and two future internationals, Anton Rogan and Allen McKnight”.

Next stop was Larne, where the manager was ex-Linfield striker Paul Malone.

“We had lads like Ian Bustard, Paul Hardy and Paul Carland at the club and we got to the Irish Cup final in 1989”.

He was out of the game for a year before it was on to Ards under another Irish League legend, Roy Coyle. Then, after a spell at Cliftonville, Tommy eventually made it to Linfield.

“I had a disagreement with the Reds and my contract wasn’t renewed. David Jeffrey got on to me and I was one of his first signings”.

5 good years at Windsor Park followed, and the determined defender became a hit with the fans, earning the nickname of ‘The Hammer’, after Rangers German midfielder Jorg Albertz.

“Getting to train and play at Windsor Park regularly was great, and I count it a real privilege to have spent time at Linfield. Winning two League titles was special, not to mention playing in European competition. And the fans were brilliant. We had some great nights out at Supporters Club events”.

Tommy enjoyed trips to Georgia, Finland and Cyprus, and it was against Omonia Nicosia that he scored a memorable long-range goal in a UEFA Cup game at Windsor Park.

“We got hammered 5-1 in Cyprus and we decided to give it a go at home. The lads used to say when I took a shot I aimed for the McDonald’s sign behind the goal, but on that occasion I found the net. We won 5-3, going out on aggregate, but nobody can say we didn’t entertain that night!”

A trip to the United States hastened Tommy’s departure from the club.

“I had an opportunity to go to America to coach, and I couldn’t let it pass. Before I went I was offered new terms, but when I came back to the club, David told me he couldn’t stand over this. I was disappointed as I loved every minute at the club but had to accept that my time was up”.

Return visits to two of his old clubs followed, first Lisburn Distillery, then Larne, before a year at Moyola Park, and another title medal.

“We won the Second Division title in 2002 with a team including Alfie Stewart and Kenny Shiels’ brother Sammy, and I think that’s the last time that they won silverware”.

Tommy finished off playing for fun at Rosario Y.C. before hanging up his boots for good.

“I did my coaching badges with Brian McLaughlin and for a while helped out with the Linfield Academy, but these days I mostly watch my son, who is 15”.

Finally, if you ask Tommy who his most difficult opponent was, he will quickly tell you it was Michael Owen.

“We played Liverpool in a pre-season game at Windsor Park and our defence was sort of trying to look after this young kid who was just starting out. Owen was lightning fast, none of us could keep up with him, and we knew how the Argentinian defenders felt the following summer when he left them for dead in the World Cup in France!”
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