Alan McDonald: Dedicated to the game right until the end, he will be sadly missed
It’s not surprising that one of the last acts of Alan McDonald’s life was to help others.
Glenavon were looking for opponents in a pre-season friendly and, thanks to a persuasive phone call from the Queen’s Park Rangers legend, Millwall will be at Mourneview Park on Saturday, July 21.
Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton will watch his men face the Npower Championship side, though it will be an occasion tinged with sadness as the man who organised it won’t be there.
“The Millwall assistant manager, Joe Gallen, played with Alan at QPR and we are very grateful he was able to arrange the game,” said Hamilton.
“It really shows how highly respected Alan was. It’s the mark of the man really. You meet so many people in football but few as special as him. When he was going through a tough time at Glentoran I encouraged him to leave but he said ‘I’m not a quitter’.
“In the light of talk of international players pulling out of friendlies you could never see Alan do that.”
McDonald did part company with the Glens in 2010 and another man who knows all about the demands of being number one at the Oval is his former comrade Scott Young.
“Alan was an inspiration to me both on and off the pitch,” said Young. “The way he conducted himself at all times was impeccable. He brought the Gibson Cup home to the Oval and took the club to an all-Ireland final.
“Northern Ireland has lost a great man.”
McDonald’s former international team-mate Colin O’Neill said: “I was shocked and saddened to hear about Big Mac. When I came into the Northern Ireland squad he was a senior player and was very good to me. He was the type of guy who tried to get everyone together and he was also a very good defender and exceptional servant to Northern Ireland.”
McDonald enjoyed a golden period at international level under Billy Bingham but former manager Bryan Hamilton also had the pleasure of working with him.
“My response is one of unbelievable shock,” said Hamilton. “I feel so sorry for his family. He was a commanding centre-half who played with distinction in England. His best achievements at international level came under Billy but you could always rely on him to do a great job for you. He carried himself very well on and off the pitch.”
The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs also paid tribute.
Spokesman, Gary McAllister said: “I'm sure I speak for all Northern Ireland fans when I say that we are totally dumbfounded by this news.
“Alan was admired by the fans for his total and absolute commitment to Northern Ireland as a player and that passion always came across when he spoke about the team.
“On a personal level, I was privileged to meet Alan on number of occasions, most notably a year ago when he attended a charity event organised by the AONISC to honour the Northern Ireland 1986 World Cup team. On that occasion, as ever, his warmth and sincerity as a person always shone through.
“He will be fondly remembered, sadly missed. We extend sincere sympathy to Alan's loved ones.”