Doonan, William (‘Willie’; ‘Bill’) (1920–76), Gaelic footballer, was born 16 April 1920 in Cavan town, one of thirteen children of John Doonan, a UDC employee from Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, and Mary Anne Doonan (née Dempsey) from Templeport, Co. Cavan, who worked in St Patrick's College, Cavan. A perception that the Doonans were originally a traveller family is erroneous. Doonan was educated at Killygarry national school, and he first came to prominence in Gaelic football as goalkeeper on the Cavan minor team that won the county's first All-Ireland title at that level in 1938. Three years later he was on the Cavan junior team that lost the All-Ireland JFC final to Kerry, and the following year (1942) he played on the Cavan senior team that won the Ulster title but lost to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. Doonan won two All-Ireland medals with Cavan, playing as right full-back on the team that won the 1947 final against Kerry at the Polo Grounds in New York, and on the team that retained the title the following year when they defeated Mayo. That same year (1948) he won a National League winner's medal, when Cavan beat Cork after a replay, and played on the Ulster side that lost the Railway Cup final to Munster. Although he initially played at club level for Cavan Slashers, in his later playing years he won a couple of county league medals with Cavan Harps. After retiring from playing, Doonan was closely associated with the establishment and development of Cavan Gaels, an amalgamation of the two Cavan town clubs, in 1957, and he was manager of the side when they won the county league in 1971.
Doonan was a popular figure in Cavan GAA circles, and his free-spirited and unconventional approach to life was the source of many stories and anecdotes. He often played club football games in his stockinged feet, and could reputedly kick a football the length of the field. In an unusual move for a GAA player, he served in the British army during the second world war, and was initially stationed in Portadown and Bristol. While in Bristol he reputedly lined out in wartime games for local soccer team Bristol Rovers, before eventually seeing action in Italy. Doonan was wounded in action in 1944, and had persistent difficulty with his left ankle throughout his subsequent football career. One well-known anecdote told about him describes an incident when his army colleagues in Italy thought he had been killed in action, but subsequently found him up a tree with the platoon radio trying to listen to the 1943 Cavan–Roscommon All-Ireland final. Citing this story in his book Over the bar, Breandán Ó hEithir (qv) credits Doonan as personifying what the GAA meant to him. Among his many subsequent nicknames was one taken from a newspaper headline of the time: ‘The Missing Man of Monte Cassino’. In November 1947 he was reported as having signed for League of Ireland soccer team Dundalk as an inside-forward, but does not appear to have played on their league side. He worked for most of his life as a builder's labourer with various firms and the local UDC. Doonan died suddenly 22 August 1976 in Cavan and is buried in Culhen cemetery. He was unmarried. A monument to his memory was erected by friends in Breffni Park, the county GAA ground.