Sunday 22 September 2019

'We were the laughing stock of Donegal'

Daire Ó Baoill. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Daire Ó Baoill. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

There comes a time in a player's career when the penny drops and Daire Ó Baoill insists Gaoth Dobhair were sick of being the "laughing stock of Donegal football".

Given the talent at their disposal with Neil and Eamon McGee, Kevin Cassidy as well as Odhrán Mac Niallais, the Gaeltacht side were serial underachievers without a county title since 2006.

That all changed this year as they powered their way to the Donegal SFC crown but there have been some dark days in the club with Cassidy damning of the lack of dedication when retiring from club duty two years ago.

Ó Baoill believes everything which the two-time All-Star said had merit but the arrival of Mervyn O'Donnell at the Gaoth Dobhair helm - and Cassidy's return - has made that talk a thing of the past.

"It was in a bad way the last 10, 12 years, maybe the laughing stock of Donegal like, because of the team we had and we couldn't even get out of the group," he said.

"I think finally winning the county this year lifted the pressure off and we kind of saw where we could be at and how far we could go.

"It was moreso for the older boys than myself. I've only been playing senior the last two-and-a-half, three years, but the minute you came into it you knew rightly... because you were always on the other end of giving abuse when you were growing up.

"You were kind of listening to the old folks and how they spoke about the team, but you can tell the last year and a half, two years, it's all changed and it's all positive and it's what we can do and what we should be doing.

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"Kevin will maybe say how it is and we maybe needed someone to go about it and tell us straight up instead of always avoiding what was wrong. People might have been giving out but Kevin was just trying to do what was right for the team and that.

"Mervyn took the job two years ago and before he chatted with the players he sat down with the older boys and said, 'It's going to be an honest team, there's going to be no bulls**t at all allowed near this team.' People might have allowed the critics get to their heads and things like that."

Having been part of a Gaoth Dobhair side that was undefeated from U-16 to U-21, it's no surprise that Ó Baoill has helped lead the revolution.

The semi-final exploits of the 21-year-old, who bagged a hat-trick of goals, will come as no surprise to those who have followed his career closely.

Ó Baoill - who has played with Finn Harps in Ireland's Premier Division - captained a home-based Irish U-18s soccer side against Wales in 2015 before concentrating on Gaoth Dobhair and he searches for silverware against Scotstown in Sunday's Ulster final.

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