Kilwinning, Ayrshire born outside left Joe Donnachie began his career in his native Scotland with newly formed Rutherglen Glencairn in 1901. He went on to have two spells with Greenock Morton in 1902 and 1904, either side of a stint with Albion Rovers in 1903. In June 1905, aged 20, he moved south to join First Division club Newcastle United. He made his Football League debut against Birmingham that September but appeared just once more for The Magpies before joining Everton in February 1906. In three years at Goodison Park he made 42 appearances, and played in two of their earlier round cup ties en route to the 1907 FA Cup Final, without making their team for the Final.
In October 1908 he joined Oldham Athletic, with whom he spent the bulk of his career. In seven seasons he scored 21 goals in 238 appearances, helping them to promotion to the First Division in 1910 and playing for them until the intervention of the First World War, including appearing in their 1913 FA Cup semi final team that narrowly lost to eventual winners Aston Villa at Ewood Park. He missed only two matches in their 1913-14 campaign when Oldham Athletic finished fourth in the League Championship, the club’s highest ever League placing.
It was while with Oldham that he won his 3 caps for Scotland, playing first in a 1-0 defeat to England at Stamford Bridge in April 1913, scoring the following March in a 1-1 draw with Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast, and finally playing in Scotland’s 3-1 win over England the next month in front of 105,000 spectators at Hampden Park.
After a short spell back in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers, making five League appearances (becoming one of the few Roman Catholics to play for Rangers), he returned during 1918-19, he returned to Everton in August 1919, for whom he made a further 16 appearances. The following June he moved up the Lancashire coast to sign with Second Division club Blackpool. In 19 appearances with The Seasiders he scored once. Donnachie finished his career with Chester City becoming player-manager in 1921.