Sunday 24 March 2019

It was strange eating Weetabix when 'Sam' was passing my house - Kevin Cassidy

Kevin Cassidy. Photo: Sportsfile
Kevin Cassidy. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Considering he missed out on an All-Ireland medal with Donegal in 2012 after an infamous fall-out with Jim McGuinness the previous season, you got the sense that Kevin Cassidy enjoyed his day in the sun with Gaoth Dobhair just a little bit more than most.

The videos on social media made everyone feel part of what the Donegal club had achieved and Cassidy was central to nearly all of them.

Were the days after the Ulster club final the best of Kevin Cassidy's career in football?

"Without a doubt," he offered without hesitation.

For a few days, Gaoth Dobhair was the centre of the universe and the place everyone wanted to be from.

One of the last times the town had seen such joy was probably when Donegal - minus Cassidy - brought Sam Maguire back in the autumn of 2012.

Cassidy sat in his house eating cereal as the cup arrived.

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It must have been a stomach-churning few months for him considering how much he had given to the cause to that point.

However, he's philosophical about it now and reckons had he soldiered on with Donegal, he might not be in the position to contribute to Gaoth Dobhair's run in this campaign.

Strange

"That was strange because I'd thrown maybe 10 or 12 years of my life in with Donegal. If you play county football, you're all or nothing really.

"We had spoken about the great scenes and in Gaoth Dobhair people like to enjoy themselves.

"We had spoken about what we'd do if Sam Maguire came back and what we would do. So for me to be sitting eating Weetabix when it was passing my house was strange.

"But I'm a great believer in 'what's for you won't go past you'," he stressed.

"If I had continued playing for Donegal, there's no way I'd be fit to play for the (club) today.

"Someone up there was looking down on me because if you were offered the two (All-Irelands), the club is the one you'd take."

Gaoth Dobhair have had 12 weeks to cover since the Ulster final win.

They reached out to the likes of Dublin and Ballymun Kickhams star James McCarthy and members of the Crossmalgen club for advice on how best to deal with the long break which has proved tricky to manage, particularly for clubs who are breaking new ground.

However, all of those worries disappeared when the town was rocked to its core with the car accident that claimed the lives of four young men, including their clubmate Mícheál Roarty.

"Our parish was full of joy and looking forward to the game and everyone talking about the game," Cassidy said.

"And then, to be hit with a sledgehammer like that, it puts everything into perspective.

"It's a difficult one. It does put things in perspective but we have to go out and play Corofin. So that's what we've had to juggle as a squad."

Since then they have tried to refocus as best they can to prepare for the challenge of reigning All-Ireland club champions.

"In my opinion, they are the best," he continued.

"That's not me talking them up. They won it last year, they've been here (semi-final stage) for four of the last five years. When you're preparing for a team, you look in to them and they leave nothing to chance.

"We came to Dublin last week to play St Brigid's in a challenge match and they had two or three cameras there filming the game. They have everything tied down.

"That's why they are at the top, because they leave nothing to chance.

"That few weeks' break, they know what to do, they know how to approach it, they don't have to ring anyone because they've been here, so it's a massive advantage for them but I suppose they had to start somewhere as well. Everyone has a first time.

"But for us to be here, it's massive for our club and our parish. Now that we are here we can't leave it behind us. We have to give it everything we have."

One more win would give him another gallop at headquarters, where he has had some great memories, including that brilliant match-winning point at the death of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare in 2011.

"I have some fantastic memories of Croke Park down through the years. But players move on, I wouldn't think of that (point against Kildare) much to be honest with you.

"You'd probably think of the bad days you had there more. It's the carrot really of thinking you might get out there with your club.

"If anyone is offered that opportunity they'd do whatever they could to get there.

"It's easy to say you'll try but we've 12 months of work put into it now and we're one step away.

"It's the biggest step probably that we'll face but you're not going to get there easy either."

Irish Independent

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