By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
If you’re coaching a sport at Ocean City High School, it’s probably a good idea to have somebody named Donoghue on your roster. Chances are, you’ll have a pretty good season — and maybe even play for a state championship.
The Donoghues, senior Andrew and sophomore Danielle, each have made their mark on the Red Raiders’ athletic program, leading whatever team they play for to successful seasons.
Andrew has been a varsity stalwart since his sophomore year in three sports, football, basketball and baseball. One of the few remaining “traditional” three-sport athletes, Andrew harkens back to years gone by since he plays the so-called “glamour” positions as well. In football, he’s the star quarterback. In basketball, he’s a starting forward, and in baseball he is the Red Raiders’ shortstop.
With Andrew leading the way, the Red Raiders went 6-4 in football and he finished his career as one of the school’s all-time leading passers. In basketball this past winter, he helped Ocean City to an 18-9 record that included berths in the Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group 3 tournaments, and last spring, during the baseball season, Andrew and the Red Raiders advanced all the way to the state Group 3 championship game.
And Danielle is beginning to make a name for herself as well. She helped lead the Ocean City soccer team to a 15-6 record that included a berth in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. As a reserve forward in basketball, she was part of a team that went 30-2, won the Cape-Atlantic League’s National Conference, the CAL Tournament, the South Jersey Group 3 championship and earned a berth in a state title game.
Andrew said he couldn’t have imagined all of the success he and his sister have had during their high school athletic careers.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about. When you start off freshman year, it seems like you’re going to be here forever and you don’t have to really think about anything because varsity feels like it’s so far away. But, then, sophomore year comes around and you start getting some time on the varsity. It feels like you’re going to be here for a long time, but now I’m looking at it and I’m already two sports down (in my senior year). I have one sport left. It just shows how fast the time really goes,” Andrew said. “I really didn’t have any goals coming into high school. I just wanted to play ball. So it’s cool to see where I’ve ended up. I wasn’t coming into school thinking I would play certain positions or anything. I would play wherever the coaches put me at.”
“I’ve always had someone to look up to. He’s been very successful, so I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps,” Danielle said.
The Donoghues were always playing some kind of sport while they were growing up, and both Andrew and Danielle are pretty competitive.
“We always were playing sports. We were always active, playing ball in the street or racing on our bikes, stuff like that,” Andrew said. “We’re competitive. We don’t really see each other much because we’ll have practice until about 6 p.m., then we’ll eat dinner together, but then it’s off to do homework. We’re not really done with that until maybe 9 p.m., and after that we’re both ready for bed. But, on the weekends, we’ll shoot the basketball around or play some kind of sport. We’re always trying to beat each other in something.
“We fought when we were kids, but it was never anything dangerous. It was more of us bickering about something.”
These days, most of the bickering takes place during the morning drive to school.
“The rides into school aren’t very fun. He won’t let me change the radio station because it’s his car, and I don’t like that,” Danielle said.
Andrew said that last year he kept a pretty good eye on his younger sister since she was just a freshman, but now he sees her developing her own identity at Ocean City.
“She’s carrying on the name. We’ve had a terrific background in our family with aunts and uncles, and we’re just trying to continue the Donoghue name. It’s good to see (Danielle’s) success,” Andrew said. “Of course, when she was a freshman and I was a junior, I had to help her through the transition. But now that she’s a sophomore and I’m a senior, she can handle herself. She’s been here a year, so I don’t have to keep my eye out as much in the hallways.”
“I don’t want to just have my name known because Andrew had a good career. I want to make my name known, too,” Danielle said. “Most of the seniors this year were very athletic and were a big part of all the sports, so next year everybody in my grade has to step up and fill their shoes. I’d like to be remembered as a good athlete who made a name for herself, just like he did.”
Danielle is well on her way to carving out her own niche at Ocean City. Aside from soccer, she was a key part of the basketball team as one of the first players who came off the bench to spell seniors Grace Sacco, Sadie Ford, Alexis Paone or Rosalia Daddi, or junior forward Mickey Baker. She played key minutes in several playoff games and helped the Red Raiders turn in one of their best seasons ever. Ocean City made it all the way to the Group 3 championship game before falling by just three points to Pascack Valley.
“It’s a great to go out this way, for us both to get the kind of publicity we’ve gotten. It’s a great thing for our school. We like to keep positive things about our school and our programs in the news. It’s cool seeing us both having successful careers,” Andrew said. “We both made it to a state final, which is pretty cool to say. Unfortunately, we both lost, but it’s still good that we both made it. It helped me senior year — after making it to the state final in baseball as a junior — to understand what it takes to have a winning team, how to work as a team to get that far. I hope that helps her and that she realizes what an amazing accomplishment it was (for the girls basketball team).”
Their success also has brought along with it plenty of scrapbook material for mom Kim and dad Mike.
“It is awesome that people like Tom Williams are keeping our names in The Gazette, Glory Days, all the people over at the Press are doing a great job covering us and giving us such great publicity. Without that, I don’t think anybody would really know who we are,” Andrew said. “I don’t know how Ocean City gets so lucky, but there does seem to be some really strong family ties here. The same names keep popping up in the record books, a lot of siblings having success.”
“It was pretty cool,” Danielle said of the Ocean City baseball team’s run to a state title game last spring. “I was just hoping that one of my sports could end up there, and the basketball team accomplished that. It was cool watching all the excitement surrounding it. Having Grace Sacco as a leader in front of me was a big help. Next year, there will be some big shoes to fill. Grace and the other seniors are great players, so the rest of us are going to have to step up next year.”
Andrew said what made the playoff runs the baseball and girls basketball teams went on even more special was the reaction from the student body, teachers, even local business owners.
“This is a great school. It’s a blessing when you are playing a sport and you see the stands full with all your friends and peers. It’s a great town, a great environment. We get a lot of respect from the local businesses, and everybody in town is always asking how the team is looking. And the teachers are very involved, too. That gives you confidence when you are playing,” he said. “When you get there and you’re on the road to a state championship, it doesn’t really feel like you are playing for that because you’re not in a huge stadium or anything. But once you are in that game, there was a time when it hit me — that I was playing in a game that featured the top two teams in Group 3 in the whole state of New Jersey. That’s when it really hit me, that we were playing at the top. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
As much success as the Donoghues have had, there are still times of self doubt and adversity, and during those times the siblings have learned to lean on each other for support.
“Through each season, we learn who we are,” Andrew said. “When she came to me with things she was going through, I would understand, and vice versa. We’ve learned who we are and how to handle the adversity of these sports we’re playing.”
Andrew said he hopes he and his sister both will be remembered long after their playing careers in red and white have come to a close.
“That’s the coolest part about playing sports. My name won’t be hanging on a banner in the gym as a 1,000-point scorer, but to still be remembered 20 years from now, that would be awesome,” he said. “To have teachers say, ‘remember when Danielle and Andrew were doing all these things in sports?’ That’s what you play sports for, really, to show who you are and to be remembered.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN