Monday 9 December 2019

Inside Back: Where are they now?

Joe Cassells (Former Meath Footballer)

Former footballer Joe Cassell from the Meath team of 1987. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Former footballer Joe Cassell from the Meath team of 1987. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Ailbhe Smyth

Joe Cassells had a long and successful career with Meath, being there from 1974 to 1990. He built his reputation in midfield. When he started playing for Meath, the county was at a low ebb but that had all changed by the time he retired.

Indeed, when he finished playing he had won nine trophies, including back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 1987 and '88.

In 1988 Meath were facing Cork for the second year in a row in the All-Ireland final. Cassells recalls the event well as he captained Meath that year, a great honour for him. "I remember the 1988 All-Ireland well, it was the day before my 34th birthday and I was the captain of Meath; playing Cork for the second year running," he recalls. He played his part in Meath's victory and lifted the Sam Maguire after beating the Rebels 0-13 to 0-9.

Cassells had also been captain four years earlier when Meath won the Centenary Cup, an open draw competition celebrating the GAA's 100 years. Meath defeated Monaghan in the final.

That win was an important one in Meath's revival, as was the Leinster championship success two years later which was the first for the county in 16 years. Again Cassells was the captain - his role as a leader in a team of leaders was now well established.

His first senior medal had come in the 1974/75 National League when Meath beat the reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin, causing a surprise. When he reflects on that win almost 40 years ago, Cassells is still extremely pleased by it. "It was such a fantastic achievement for Meath that day," he says.

Cassells's ability was obvious from an early age and by his late teens he was already starring for his club Navan O'Mahonys at midfield.

Best known as a footballer, of course, Cassells also played hurling and in 1985 he was the only player to start in both finals as Navan O'Mahonys won both the Meath senior football and hurling championships.

In his career, Cassells won four Leinster titles, two All-Ireland titles, two league titles and the Centenary Cup, along with county titles with his club.

Cassells is now a retired electrician and still lives in his native Navan.

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