New documentary about Big Danny McGonagle and Clonmany Tug of War club to air on Newstalk

Everyone knows Big Danny.
Big Danny McGonagleBig Danny McGonagle
Big Danny McGonagle

Not just in Inishowen, but in far-flung places like South Africa, China, Taiwan, and most of Europe. Anywhere, in fact, where men, women, adults, or children strain every muscle to pull on a rope to best their opponents, Big Danny McGonagle is known.

Wherever you find the sport of tug of war, you’ll find people who know Big Danny.

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As you come into the village of Clonmany, you’ll pass a long, narrow single-story building with a tin roof. This plain building is home to World Champions. This is the home of Clonmany Tug of War club, who train here in the autumn and winter nights, pulling together for another tilt at European and World glory. They build them big, and they dream big, in Clonmany.

Clonmany B in action in the 2020 World Indoor Championships.Clonmany B in action in the 2020 World Indoor Championships.
Clonmany B in action in the 2020 World Indoor Championships.

And many more people will know about him next weekend when Newstalk broadcast a new documentary about Big Danny, the Clonmany club and his passion for tug of war. ‘Pulling Together...’ was produced by Jim Doherty of local media company Crana Communications. Big Danny has devoted over 40 years to the sport both locally and world-wide, growing and promoting it at every opportunity. As he says himself, “It’s a mighty sport, and if God was to give me another 40 years or a billion pounds, I’d take the 40 years every time!”

The documentary is centred around Big Danny fulfilling a lifetime ambition for Donegal to host the World Indoor Tug of War championships. He successfully achieved this when the Championships were held in the Aura Leisure Centre in Letterkenny in February 2020. This was a massive voluntary team effort with many people putting in a lot of time to organise and successfully run the event. All this work and effort was nearly ruined though as the threat of Covid grew ever closer. Indeed, two weeks after the Championships ended the country went into full lockdown.

‘Pulling Together: Big Danny, Clonmany...and the World’ gives the listener an insight into the sport and the people involved in it. For many its part of their family tradition, where grandfathers, fathers and now sons and daughters pull on the rope. One thing that does come across clearly in the programme is the sheer passion and dedication ‘pullers’ have for their sport. As one contributor says, “It’s not about big men with big bellies lying on a rope, its more competitive than that, its not about weight but technique and training.”

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The Clonmany club is also an integral part of the local community and plays an important role in fundraising for the local community centre, which provides a range of services and activities for the area. This close-knit community has overcome recession, emigration, and floods to remain strong and united. The documentary highlights these issues and how important it is for a community to ‘pull together’.

The Clonmany B team - 2020 World Champions.The Clonmany B team - 2020 World Champions.
The Clonmany B team - 2020 World Champions.

‘Pulling Together...’ will premiere on Newstalk on Sunday July 30 at 7am, be repeated the following Saturday August 5 at 9pm, and the podcast will go live on the Newstalk website Sunday July 30th too.

‘Pulling Together’ was produced and edited by Jim Doherty with the aid of funding from the BAI’s Sound and Vision programme.