Africa first, Denver next for BG’s Donahue

Connor Donahue of Groton, on a Bishop Guertin mission to Zambia, where he taught lacrosse to a group of young kids. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Connor Donahue of Groton, on a Bishop Guertin mission to Zambia, where he taught lacrosse to a group of young kids. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Connor Donahue Bishop Guertin Lacrosse 2012 Season Highlights

Should a powerhouse lacrosse program ever sprout from the plateaus of Zambia (an impassioned soccer nation in southern Africa), Groton’s Connor Donahue maybe will have helped plant the seed.

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The Zambian children who flocked to Donahue last summer had fun just throwing a ball with a lacrosse stick, and retrieving it once it stopped rolling.

Donahue was in Zambia with 17 other Bishop Guertin High School students on a three-week mission trip to help out at the St. Francis Secondary School in Malole. Brother Donald Tardif, a teacher at BG who once taught in Zambia, organizes the annual trip.

There was much work to be done, including refurbishing a band hall at the school. But Donahue, an All-American lacrosse player and All-State hockey player in New Hampshire, could not leave home without his lacrosse sticks. He and former BG teammate Colin Swanson, now a St. Anselm College freshman, each brought three sticks and several balls to shoot on the trip.

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“I just brought them over so the kids could mess around,” says Donahue. “They had more fun just throwing the ball and chasing it down. They didn’t know the rules or anything. It was great.”

His lacrosse skills will soon take Donahue, a BG senior, to the University of Denver to study business. It is quite an endorsement to have Denver coach Bill Tierney wanting you. After winning six national titles at Princeton, Tierney in four seasons has turned Denver into a power. The Pioneers have been to the Final Four two of the last three years.

“They’re very excited to have (Donahue),” says BG lacrosse coach Chris Cameron. “They run a little hybrid Canadian-style/American-style offense and think Connor will fit in perfectly as the guy behind the cage setting up the offense.”

Donahue also visited Loyola-Maryland (2012 national champs), St. Joseph’s, Hofstra and High Point (N.C.).

“I had never been out West before,” he says. “It’s a totally different lifestyle. The weather … 300 days of sunshine a year, they say.”

So he will be a Pioneer.

Donahue, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound attackman “who can do it all — dodge, shoot pass,” says Cameron, last spring had 25 goals and 48 assists while helping Bishop Guertin to its fourth straight New Hampshire state title. Cameron, who twice led the nation in scoring as a player at Lehigh University from 1986-89, has cranked out Division 1 college players and high school All-Americans during his 10 seasons as coach at BG. He says Donahue in his upcoming senior season “has the potential to be the best attackman BG has had.”

Richard and Sheila Donahue’s son also happens to be one of the best high school hockey players in New Hampshire. He was a first-team All-State defenseman last year as a junior. BG hockey coach Gary Bishop still gets calls from prep schools inquiring whether his captain wishes to attempt a long run at playing college hockey.

“As we all know, in college hockey nowadays you need to be 20 (as a freshman),” says Bishop, a former UMass Lowell assistant. “He would have to spend a couple of years playing juniors, and even then, whether that is going to get him a shot to play Division 1, who knows? He has a chance to play Division 1 lacrosse right now, so why put your degree on hold?”

Donahue’s size also is not an issue in lacrosse. “If you can make up for lack of size with quickness, there is a place for you at any level,” says Cameron.

After Bishop Guertin’s hockey season ends, Donahue will put that sport aside until the adult men’s leagues.

“I’ve been playing hockey my whole life. I love it. You just can’t give it up,” says Donahue. “I will probably still play it after college.”

He hopes also to someday return to Africa. The visit last summer made a lasting impression. Donahue remembers arriving in Lusaka, the capital and largest city in Zambia, and seeing poverty up close. “A lot to take in real quick,” he says.

He was touched by how welcoming the people he met were. “Totally different from here,” says Donahue. “We were complete strangers to them and they’d welcome us into their homes. The nicest people you will meet.”

The toughest part of the trip was leaving — seeing the faces of “the younger kids who didn’t understand why we were leaving,” says Donahue. These kids three weeks before had reached out to touch the hands of BG students as they first stepped off the bus from the airport.

“If I could, I definitely would go back,” says Donahue.

Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10

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