Thursday 26 April 2018

'We'll be even better next year', says Donegal's Eamonn McGee

Donegal’s McGee brothers reflect on their epic journey to All-Ireland glory and how it has changed their lives

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

DONEGAL'S Eamonn McGee looks back and considers the journey.

Along with his brother Neil, he's in Dublin to promote the new 'Medal of Honor' game along with rugby stars Rob and Dave Kearney.

Their presence at such a launch is a stark sign of how far Donegal and their players have come.

It's a long, long way from being also-rans to making it to the top of the marketing executives' lists as now everyone wants to be associated with Donegal's rags-to-riches story.

"Coming out of Crossmaglen after the Armagh hammering (in 2010), winning the All-Ireland and doing this sort of thing -- it was as far away as anything could be," says Eamonn.

The week after the All-Ireland is a blur. Players brushed their teeth in the toilet on the team bus and bags of fresh clothes were ferried to the coach that snaked its way through a vast county.

"It was physically and mentally draining," states Neil. "You are trying to be nice to everyone. In fairness, people have spent a lot of money to watch Donegal and you're trying to be nice.

"Physically trying to get from one place to another, it was hard. But it's a good complaint to have -- two or three years ago we were sitting in our house and no one wanted to speak to us.

"We're a fairly tight bunch. It was good to get chatting and sit down and talk honestly to each other, say the things you want and share moments. I enjoyed the bus and the towns we stopped in. If it was possible, it brought us together even more."

The McGees carried Sam into Gweedore on the Wednesday night after the final and bowed out of the festivities the next day. They had a club championship game that Sunday that they would lose to Michael Murphy's Glenswilly.

"It was a bit of a mess," Eamonn says. "I was in bad shape trying to run after Murphy. He's a young fella, but I can't mix the two. It was disappointing that we couldn't cap off the year with a good performance with the club."

According to them, Kevin Cassidy was still the "main man" for the club this year. There's an obvious empathy for their clubmate having missed out on an All-Ireland medal. He's good enough and fit enough to play for Donegal again, they say, but any decision is down to manager Jim McGuinness.

"He's 31 and I'm sure he's still in good shape," Neil says.

"It could be possible, but there's no word of it. He's the main man with our club. He's an unbelievable player, but it's up to Jim. You never know what's around the corner."

Along with a couple of other Donegal players, Neil found himself in former Monaghan and Meath manager Seamus McEnaney's nightclub in Carrickmacross with Sam last weekend -- and there'll be plenty more engagements like that in the coming weeks.

Soon, though, thoughts will have to turn to next year.

The McGees acknowledge the experience of Dublin this year. The Dubs' defence of Sam never seemed to gather any real momentum, despite the fact that they reached the All-Ireland semi-finals.

"No one can say we had an easy route," states Eamonn.

"Sometimes people can say that when someone wins something, but we performed consistently throughout the year. But, as Neil says, that won't be good enough for next year.

"It's been shown how hard it is to retain. We'll have to increase the work rate and come back even better next year."

Irish Independent

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