Brian McEniff

Brian McEniff
Personal information
Sport Gaelic football
Born (1942-12-01) 1 December 1942
Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland
Years Club
? – ? St Joseph's
Years County
? – ? Donegal
Inter-county titles
All Stars 1

Brian McEniff (born 1 December 1942) is a former Gaelic football manager. Regarded as a Gaelic football Godfather-type figure,[1] the high point of his managerial career was his masterminding of Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final victory over Dublin. In his most recent spell as manager of his county team he led them to the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-finals in 2003.

McEniff has also managed Ulster for 25 years from 1982 until 2007, and has coached the Ireland international rules football team to victory over the Australia international rules football team in Australia. As a player he received an All Star Award in 1972 and twice won the Ulster Senior Football Championship.

Early life

Born in Bundoran, County Donegal, McEniff's parents were Mr. John McEniff from Newbliss, County Monaghan, and Elizabeth Begley from Carrickmore, County Tyrone.[2] They were married in Bundoran in 1935. McEniff has three brothers: P. J. McEniff (retired dentist), Sean McEniff (Donegal County Councillor) and Liam McEniff (doctor), and one sister, Mary McGlynn (retired hotel accountant).

"From the age of eight or nine my mother had me washing dishes on a biscuit tin at the Holyrood, " Brian said in a Tribune interview in 2004.

McEniff went to Bundoran Primary School. At the age of 12 he attended St. Macarten's College, a boarding school, in Monaghan Town. Following this, at the age of 17, he went to Cathal Burgha Street College in Dublin where he studied Hotel Management for three years.

In 1962 he went to Canada to gain valuable work experience, and worked for four years in the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. It was there that he met and married Catherine O'Leary, a Cork native, and they went on to have three children while living in Canada. McEniff returned to Ireland in 1966 and got involved in the Donegal GAA, playing at county level for Donegal, on the same team as the current Donegal County Manager (the most senior civil servant with Donegal County Council), Michael McLoone.

Gaelic games

McEniff's success in Gaelic games culminated when he led his native Donegal team to glory over Dublin at Croke Park in the 1992 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final.[3]

In his playing career, he was player-manager of the first Donegal team to win an Ulster Senior Football Championship title in 1972, and was also the recipient of an All Star award in 1972.

He has won numerous titles with his home club of Bundoran, the famous St. Joseph's combination of Bundoran and Ballyshannon, Donegal and Ulster. He won his last County Senior Football Championship with Bundoran in 1979, which included the late Brendan McHugh and Seamus Reilly, both county representatives for Sligo, Mayo and Donegal.

Under his leadership Ulster won 12 Railway Cup Finals. In 1975 he assisted the Sligo team and achieved victory when they won the Connacht Senior Football Championship. He also managed the Ireland international rules football team in 2000 and 2001. They went to Australia in October 2001, where they won their games against the Australia international rules football team. He left Ireland in 2001.[4] He also served on the GAA Central Council.

In 2003, McEniff brought the Donegal team to the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-finals—the last occasion on which they would achieve this feat until the time of the legendary Jim McGuinness. In this year McEniff was also in charge of the county team, and he also managed the Ulster team from 1983 to 2007. McEniff stood down from his position as Ulster manager in 2007, 25 years after taking the job in 1982. He left Donegal in 2005 after a fifth and final tenure in charge ended with a drab qualifier defeat to Cavan at Breffni Park.[5][6]

He was mentor to Nell McCafferty on the Celebrity Bainisteoir television programme in 2007.

In 2010, he helped Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick in an advisory capacity.

Business interests

McEniff is Director of the McEniff Hotels including the Holyrood Hotel (originally bought by his father John in 1951) and the Great Northern Hotel & Golf links (bought from CIÉ in 1977 by Brian and Sean McEniff and Brian's brother-in-law Michael Burke for £125,000). In 1969, McEniff bought the Hamilton Hotel which was next door to the Holyrood Hotel.

On 7 June 1979, McEniff was elected onto Donegal County Council in lieu of his older brother Sean McEniff. Even though his father was a strong Fine Gael supporter, his mother was Fianna Fáil.


In recent times McEniff has developed a bad back. During his appearance on Up for the Match ahead of the 2012 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final, McEniff was visibly stiff, awkward and in some pain. One day after undergoing surgery on his back he attended the 2012 All Stars Awards in Dublin—at which All-Ireland Champions Donegal received eight places out of a possible fifteen on the All Stars Team of the Year and Karl Lacey was named All Stars Footballer of the Year—saying "I wouldn't miss this for the world."[7]




  1. "McEniff puts the don in Donegal". The Sun. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012. Brian McEniff could be forgiven for feeling like a Gaelic football Godfather this weekend. On Saturday the Donegal Don will be sharing his wisdom with one of his many lieutenants.
  2. Crowe, Dermot (26 May 2013). "History on both sides of divide". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  3. Campbell, John (27 August 2011). "All-Ireland: Brian McEniff helps Donegal to shine". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  4. "Ireland take series with emphatic win". RTÉ Sport. RTÉ. 19 October 2001. Brian McEniff ended his tenure as Ireland manager with a comprehensive 71–52 victory over Australia to take the International Rules series at Adelaide's Football Park this afternoon.
  5. "Two final meetings that shaped strands of history". Donegal Democrat. Johnston Press. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  6. "McEniff resigns as Donegal manager". RTÉ Sport. RTÉ. 5 July 2005. Retrieved 5 July 2005.
  7. "An All-Star night to remember for Donegal". Donegal Democrat. Johnston Press. 27 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
Preceded by
Pete McGrath
All-Ireland-winning football manager
Succeeded by
Eamonn Coleman
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Several people
Donegal Senior Football Manager
Several times
Succeeded by
Several people
Preceded by
God only knows
Ulster Senior Football Manager
Succeeded by
Joe Kernan
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