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Longtime Carson Graham coach gets the call to BC Football Hall of Fame

September 19, 2023
A coach dressed in an al black tracksuit braces himself with his hands on his knees. Football players stand in line behind him.
Larry Donohoe has been involved with the Carson Graham football program as a player, coach and administrator for more than 40 years. On Sept. 15, 2023, he’ll be inducted into the BC Football Hall of Fame. | Blair Shier

By Andy Prest, North Shore News, September 14, 2023.

Larry Donohoe has been a fixture on the Carson Graham football team in North Vancouver for more than 40 years.

And now he’ll be a permanent fixture on the walls of the BC Football Hall of Fame.

The former Carson Graham player who jumped right into coaching following his playing days will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a ceremony during the CFL game between the BC Lions and Ottawa RedBlacks Friday night at BC Place. The Class of 2023 also includes Jon Cornish, Bryan Chiu, Will Loftus, Mark McDonald, Howard Tsumura, Terry Kehoe, Kay Ackles, Dennis Skulsky, and the 1996-1998 Richmond Colts.

For Donohoe, who has served a number of coaching and administrative roles with the Carson Graham program over the years, the call to the hall is still a bit stunning.

“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “Definitely humbling, but it’s a huge honor. I still don’t know what to think about it all, to be honest.”

Donohoe’s Carson career started as a player in 1978. He graduated in 1980 and was set to play for SFU, but just before the season began he found out he was ineligible due to his grades. At around the same time Donohoe’s father passed away. It was at this low point that Earl Henderson, the legendary founder of the Carson football program who spent nearly three decades as head coach, ordered Donohoe to report for duty.

“He said ‘well if you’re not going to school, you’re going to come coach,’” Donohoe recalled. “Earl was the first coach who made me fall in love with coaching.”

Donohoe has been working with the Carson program ever since, and his connections to the team have made him the longest serving non-teaching coach in the history of the North Shore Secondary Schools Athletics Association.

His list of accomplishments is extensive, including head coaching and assistant coaching roles with both the Carson junior and senior teams, collecting several provincial championship banners along the way.

He also co-founded and served as co-ordinator of the annual Buchanan Bowl game between Carson Graham and their North Van neighbours Handsworth. Founded in 1987, the Buchanan Bowl is the second-longest running high school rivalry game in the province. Donohoe is also president of the James Buchanan Memorial Scholarship Fund, which awards academic scholarships to a player from each of the Buchanan Bowl teams.

"Larry is incredibly loyal and caring," said current Carson Graham head coach Brian Brady. "The sheer volume of work he needs to do for the Buchanan Bowl would be crippling to the average individual. He has grown this event not for himself, but for the honour of James Buchanan’s memory, for his friend John Buchanan, and to ensure that Carson Graham and Handsworth have a special event to build community and come together. These are the memories students will have 20-30-40 years after graduation." 

Away from Carson, Donohoe has also served as a staff sponsor of the Argyle Pipers football program, acted as an assistant coach at the B.C. Senior Bowl and at the Western Canada All-Star Football Camp, sat as an executive of the BC Secondary Schools Football Association, and co-ordinated the Subway Bowl BC High School Football All-Star Banquet during the first five years of its existence.

Suffice it to say, he’s given a huge amount of time, effort and expertise to the game of football. But the game has also given a huge amount back to him.

“Football is a different sport,” he said. “I love the preparation, I love working with the kids. It’s kind of my happy place with all the stresses of life. … I’ve given back, but I always felt like I was getting a lot back as well. I just love being around it all.”

Football is a unique game in terms of the bonds that it creates, said Donohoe.

“I met great people along the way, lots of mentors of mine who have become great friends,” he said. “It’s the ultimate team sport – you have to have all 11 guys doing the right thing for anything to work.”