Feeling of regret rather than heart: Cassidy

By Kevin Herron 

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy dismissed any suggestion that he could have taken heart from his sides second-half fight back against Gweedore as the Antrim champions exited the AIB Ulster Senior Football Championship after a 3-11-1-13 defeat by the Donegal natives. 

Instead Cassidy’s feeling was of regret that his charges failed to put in a constant display and waited until they were ten points adrift before battling back into contention. 

“I don’t know how I would describe it as taking heart – certainly from a point of view of the team going out and representing themselves and showing what they can do” reflected Cassidy. 

“The overriding feeling in truth is – why did we not perform like that in the first half? I can’t answer that question. I just did not see it coming – it was like two different teams, it was like we walked in with one team and walked out with a different set of fifteen players in the second-half. It isn’t so much about heart but about regret”. 

Former Derry All-Ireland winner Cassidy was at loss to explain his sides below par first-half showing and admired the overriding feeling at the end was that the Erin Own’s men had gifted Gweedore victory. 

“I can’t explain the first-half” said Cassidy. 

“All the things that we were supposed to do we weren’t doing and all the stuff we were supposed to do we did in the second-half it’s puzzling. In the second-half we showed what we could have done and if we had have backed two halves together we could have been looking at a different outcome – I feel that we’ve given it away”. 

Cargin’s brave comeback bid comes up just short

thumbnailUlster Club Senior Football Championship (Qtr Final)

Erin’s Own Cargin (Antrim) 1-13 Gaoth Dobhair (Donegal) 3-11

Report by Geordie McGuckin

Photos by John McIlwaine

If obituaries were in the process of being penned on the demise of the Antrim champions Cargin when they trailed their counterparts from Donegal by ten points at half time of Sunday’s Ulster Club quarter-final at Corrigan Park, most of the observers in the sizeable attendance would have been in unanimous agreement.

The Gweedore men had arrived at Corrigan Park with a tall reputation which seemed fully justified at the end of that opening period and were full value for their ten point lead.

Some of the Cargin supporters may well have had plans to cut short their time in West Belfast at this stage, but that decision would have been taken in haste as the Erin’s Own lads had no intention of throwing in the towel as they producing a character laden comeback in the second half, and while it was not enough to effect the outcome of the game it went a long way towards restoring a lot of pride.

12Kevin Cassidy flicks the ball to the Cargin net for Gweedore’s opening goal

The Toome men had remained in close attendance with the Tir Conaill champions for the opening twenty minutes with a couple of points from the impressive Jamie Gribbin and one each from Marty Kane, Gerard McCann and Tomas McCann ensured they were in close contact as the quarter final tie reached the latter stages.

Gribbin had started the season much as the ‘new kid on the block’ has improved as the year progressed and he looks one for the future.

Cian Mulligan and Michael Carroll had the opening points for the men from the West and further whites raised by late call up Eamon McKee, who had replaced county star Odhran MacNiallis, who was unable to start after breaking a finger during the week, leading up to the game.

The Donegal side received another setback when Ciaran Gillespie was stretcherd off when he fell awkwardly after contesting the throw in but they kept their noses in front and when  Eamon Collum and Kevin Cassidy added points they were 0-05 to 0-04 to the good after 20 minutes.

Cargin did miss a couple of openings to increase their tally but as back to back opportunities went without reward as the leather fell short and into the keepers arms.

The Gaoth Dobhair men really raised the ante in the last minutes of the half and after bagging back to back goals, and a couple of points in extended injury time they opened up a ten point advantage and gave appeared to be on course to an easy passage to the next round.

Kevin Cassidy started the scoring for Gweedore with back-to-back points before the industrious Jamie Gribbin got the Antrim champions on the board with a well taken score. However the Donegal men were really in the groove and when Eamon McGee and Cian Mulligan combined to send Kevin Cassidy in to punch to the net and a poor clearance which followed paved the way for Michael Carroll and Daire Boyle to interchange and open passage for Cian Mulligan to add another major within a minute the shell shocked Cargin men were in deep trouble.

Tomas Mc Cann did reply with a Cargin point in added time but Gaoth Dobhair were to have the last say of the half and a 35th minute Michael Carroll point ensured a hefty 2-10 to 0-06 interval advantage.

19Cargin substitute Paul McCann breaths new life into his team’s comeback as he fires the ball to the Gweedore net just moments after coming on.

The size of the winning margin seemed the only thing in question as the second half commenced but it soon became obvious that Damien Cassidy’s side were not about to give up without a fight and after Michael Mc Cann and the unfortunate Jamie Gribbin added early scores, replacement Paul Mc Cann found the net with virtually his first touch to breath new life into the Cargin challenge.

Gribbin was the victim of a heavy challenge and had to be replaced by Paul Mc Cann who was back in harness after a lengthy period spent recovering from a serious foot injury, but he was soon to make his presence felt.

Premier 1Cargin were now looking a different side and after John Mc Nabb stood tall to deny Cian Mulligan with a brilliant point-blank save, Michael Mc Cann and Justin Crozier raised white flags apiece at the other end to leave only a single score separating the sides. Suddenly the self-assured Donegal champions looked anything but and with twelve minutes still to play the game was up for grabs.

The Donegal men had been halted in their tracks, and as the second period progressed it was more than obvious that they had lost that early swagger. They had failed to register a single score in the second half,  and though Seamus Boyle put that to right when he sent over a free from out on the right wing, the game was still up for grabs. With nine minutes of normal time still to play, and a four minutes of injury, there was still time for the Antrim champions to mount a challenge and a 53rd minute James Laverty point from play saw the Antrim champs back within a score.

Cargin were dominating and in search of scores and with the Gweedore men now treading water Gerard Mc Corley’s intervention and clearance sent Cargin on the attack again, and when Paul Mc Cann was upended 30 meters from goal his sibling Tomas sent the resultant award firmly between the posts to cut the gap back to just two.

Cargin were now leading the second half scoring by 1-6 to 0-1 but their gallant come-back was about to falter when John Mc Nabb pulled off a splendid save to deny Cian Mulligan’sgoal-bound shot the leather fell kindly for the incoming Michael Carroll to fist to the net, despite the best efforts of Gerard Mc Corley.

A cruel blow for Cargin who had given everything in an effort to turn around a massive ten point deficit, and though Paul McCann brought the gap back to four with a late point, a relieved Gweedore held on to book a semi-final place against Crossmaglen in two weeks’ time.

In the end they had left themselves just too much to do and they must look back on their first half policy of not contesting the Gweedore kick-outs. When they pushed up man on man in the second period the game changed dramatically and while the Donegal champions won every one of their first half kick-outs, that ratio changed dramatically in the second half.

13Cargin’s James Lavery comes out of defence with the ball during the second half. 2


Christopher Sweeney, Gary Mc Fadden, Neil Mc Gee, Christopher Mc Fadden, Niall Friel, Ciaran Gillespie, Seamus Boyle (0-01), Daire Boyle, Eamon Mc Gee (0-01),  Cian Mulligan (1-01), Naoishe Boyle, Donal Mc Bride, Eamon Collum (0-03), Kevin Cassidy (1-03), Michael Carroll (1-02)


Peadar Mc Hugh for Ciaran Gillespie

Seamus Carvill for D Mc Bride

Stephen Ferry for E Collum

Gavin Mc Bride for N Boyle

E Collum for G Mc Bride (black card)1


John Mc Nabb, Donnach Mc Keever, Marty Kane (0-01), Gerard Mc Corley, Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier (0-01), James Laverty (0-01), Gerard Mc Cann (0-01), Michael Mc Cann (0-02), John Carron, Jamie Gribbin (0-03), Ciaran Bradley, Enda Mc Grogan (0-01), Michael Magill, Tomas Mc Cann (0-02)


Kieran Close for M Magill

Paul Mc Cann (1-01) J Gribbin

Oran Mc Auley for E Mc Grogan

Referee Paul Faloon (An Dun)Creagh copy-banner

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Pics by John McIlwaine




Gaoth Dobhair have answered their critics – Christopher McFadden

By the Donegal Democrat

Christopher McFadden believes that Gaoth Dobhair’s SFC win last Sunday will finally silence their critics.

So many questions were asked of the Magheragallon men over the last 12 years as to why they were unable to once again scale that Dr. Maguire mountain.

33-year-old McFadden is one of the few survivors from Gaoth Dobhair’s last championship win back in 2006. He admits that the last decade or so of failure hasn’t been good enough for a club with Gaoth Dobhair’s pedigree.

He told the Donegal Democrat: “Going back to 2006, I was still just a young fella. I think I was 21. You probably take it for granted. You expect them to come in threes and fours. But nothing followed. But we’re back here now. The parish of Gaoth Dobhair have been waiting for this for so long.

“We know we haven’t been good enough but all that’s changed now after this.”

The influx of a superb group of young and decorated footballers has made a huge difference to what Gaoth Dobhair now bring to the table. Spliced between experienced campaigners like McFadden, Kevin Cassidy and Neil and Eamon McGee; what Mervyn O’Donnell now has at his disposal is a panel that possesses panache, pace and real power.

It’s that potent mixture which completely overwhelmed the rest of the runners in this season’s Donegal club championship race.

“They’ve been a breath of fresh air for the club,” McFadden said on the cluster of cubs that have made such an impressive jump to senior football over the last two seasons. “Some of us older heads; it was only so far we could bring the thing. They’ve made a huge difference. To win anything you need legs. Believe me, the way football has gone you need lads that can motor.

“Going down the stretch there, with 15 minutes to go, back a few years ago we probably would have let that kind of advantage slip. But look at how the young lads drove it all on. There was chance after chance. We did concede a late goal, yes. But did it faze them, not one bit.

“That’s the big difference this season.”

McFadden, or ‘Ginger’ as he is known to his teammates, is now into his 13th season in the senior ranks for Gaoth Dobhair. He is adamant that failure simply wasn’t an option ahead of last weekend’s decider against Naomh Conaill.

He explains: “I came in in 2005. It doesn’t get any easier. No word of a lie. Before we came out onto this pitch we had a good word between ourselves. We had to win today. There really was no other option. If we didn’t win today, then who knows what route we’d have gone down?

“People were asking, ‘do Gaoth Dobhair have it?’ We’d questions to answer. But flip it. Those young lads, none of them have ever lost a final. I think that showed today.”

Given the manner in which they’ve disposed of all comers in 2018 domestically, Gaoth Dobhair’s name is unavoidably up there now that talk has turned to the Ulster club. McFadden doesn’t shy away from the question.

Donegal sides’ record in the competition is poor to say the least. But there is no doubt that Gaoth Dobhair have the personnel to give it a serious rattle.

“We haven’t talked about Ulster once this term,” he said. “How could we? People had us as favourites for the championship but we’d no call to be taken in by that kind of talk. But now, of course we have to look at it.

“We have pace, we have power. We have a good blend of youth and experience. But our young lads are experienced also. That’s a big thing for us. We’ll definitely be looking to give it a good shot. But the celebrations of this has to come first. That’s what we’re looking forward to at this moment.”


The Donegal Democrat speaks to ‘The Special one’ Eamon Magee

The Special One! Eamon McGee, tall blue-eyed citizen of Dore and Gaoth Dobhair, has long been one of the county’s greatest natural talents.

And it is surely a mystery why he did not get at least one All-Star award in 2012 or 2014 which his vast array of talents demanded.

It is about two minutes after Gaoth Dobhair have taken their 15th county title and Eamon is, as always, standing tall and straight before the world with his daughter, Daisy, in his hands.

And quiet pride and joy is written deep in his face.

Life has been good to McGee in recent years, but that was not always the case, as he is a man who has clearly seen the two days.

Eamon has tasted life through the teeth, but has always been unfailingly courteous, thoughtful, with a real sardonic wit that makes a rarity in an era of boring cloned clichés.

He is one of the most graceful, intelligent players Donegal has ever produced, an outstanding soccer player, who still glides over the ground at 33 and can draw an opponent and pick out a colleague with a killer pass.

And there are very few players who could get away with telling you directly: “I wish I had Ricey’s (ex-Tyrone star Ryan McMenamin) vocabulary.”

But eternal maverick souls tend to make their own rules and McGee is also a keen admirer of wit.

For true mavericks and free spirits always make memories brighter in these declining days of autumn when Mother Earth flings out her fruit before dying in ice.

Safe was never a word you could use about Eamon as you could never quite guess exactly what he was about to come out with next.

Maybe Eamon was not too sure himself, but who really cares, as it only added to his humanity and life would be very dull if we did not have that je ne sais quoi, that frisson that keeps you mostly awake, alert and expectant.

But safe is certainly a word you could use about his masterly display of superb creativity in attack and calm influence in defence.

He is naturally young at heart and seems to be drawing great energy from playing with so Many Young Men Of 20 and they are so very dependent on his ability to slow down matters when necessary and ability to draw defenders and create space for their youthful invincibility.

Back to Ballybofey on Sunday and Eamon eloquently shows his sheer delight in a special day as he picks up his third county medal, an honour he shares with brother Neil McGee, Kevin Cassidy and Christopher McFadden.

“Twelve years is a long time since we won the last one in 2006.

“They talk a lot about tradition in Gaoth Dobhair.

“But you only have a tradition if you are winning and you are there and we haven’t been there enough, so hopefully this is the start of building another strong tradition.

“For the older lads this is a big thing as we have a lot of miles on the clock so it is another medal, three for four of us.

“The younger bucks have a big future ahead of them

“So hopefully that is the first of many for them.”

When asked about Gaoth Dobhair’s great combination of youth and experience, he said: “The young lads have that bit of drive and we provide that wee bit of wit and wisdom sometimes.

“So it is a nice combination and anything we can do to help those lads progress and to drive on Gaoth Dobhair we are more than happy to do that.”

So does this victory encourage Eamon to keep pulling on the famous green and white jersey.

“You don’t retire from club football, club football retires you.

“So until Mervyn says to me or any club manager says move on or do something else I will still be about Gaoth Dobhair, unless St Eunan’s come knocking on my door,” he quipped.

So what did it really mean to this tall legend of the Fall?

“Your club is your family.

“You don’t choose your family and we have been through lows and highs and have seen boys grow up and to share that moment with them is just brilliant.

“And to share all of that with your club is just the greatest feeling you will have.

“We will enjoy this for a while and hopefully we can push on in Ulster.”

So Eamon now has three county medals, but he is already looking forward to “try and test ourselves in Ulster.”

“There is a lesson to be learned by county senior boards from the great work that has been done by the minor boards in bringing young lads like ours through.

“There are a lot of men who don’t want any plaudits, who put the hard work in and they are why we in Gaoth Dobhair have a medal, because they put the work in.

“And they deserve to be mentioned.”

Yes indeed and I suspect that we will continue to see quite a bit more of Gaoth Dobhair and Donegal’s very own Special One!

Gura fada buan thu, a chomradai san ait is aille ar domhan!


The Donegal Democrat speaks to Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O’Donnell

Genial Gaoth Dobhair manager Mervyn O’Donnell and his men have been drinking deep from the wine red rose of victory for, not only can they play, the could always party.

But five days on from that historic victory in Ballybofey, they were back training, as the more serious business of making a real impression in Ulster approached.

A very experienced Cargin side lie in wait with home advantage in Belfast on Sunday.

You would think there would be some nerves in this relatively young squad, but there is a remarkable calmness about this group of young men that are likened to the great Kerry team of the mid 1970s in terms of their youth.

“Yes we have been celebrating but it is important to enjoy the fruits of victory.

“Winning the county title means everything to Gaoth Dobhair and we have suitably remembered it and now we will be focusing on Cargin.”

And if you are waiting for a full dossier on the Antrim side, think again, for Mevyn and Gaoth Dobhair have the self-possession to work on their own game.

Of course, they have already sussed out some relevant challenges that might present themselves, but this Gaoth Dobhair team does not panic or speculate.

It also helps that Mervyn has been with them since U-10 and is also U-21 manager, so there is an impressive tight bond in the group.

Speaking to the Democrat ahead of last weekend’s scheduled U-21 match against Glenfin, Mervyn was not happy about having to play the fixture.

“Six of our senior starting team are still under 21, Gary McFadden, Odhran McFadden Ferry, Dáire Ó Baoill, Naoise Ó Baoill, Eamonn Collum and Michael Carroll are the players involved.

“That team is that good that they would win Ulster again.

“That is poor management that the two things are on at the same time and I just think it is crazy.”

But more pertinently, there has been a bit of speculation in Donegal that the Gaoth Dobhair senior team can also win Ulster.

However, they face a Cargin side laced with considerable experience with the like of Tomas and Michael McCann major players.

Add in quality county performers like Kevin O’Boyle, Justin Crozier, James Laverty and Tony Scullion and you see the very real challenge which the Antrim champions possess.

Both teams will fancy their chances which could lead to a good open game on the excellent surface at Corrigan Park on Sunday.

Cargin’s final against neighbours Creggan Kickham’s was a snooze fest, just like last year’s Donegal county final.

“They seem to be pretty experienced and we know Ulster is going to be tough, so it is a question of getting the minds focused again after a big win in Donegal.

“Winning a county final takes a lot out of you but these lads are pretty young and they will recover pretty quickly.”

Despite their youth there is a calm sense of confidence in the Gaoth Dobhair squad.

“That has come from winning right the whole way up from U-10 and I have watched them develop into a really special group.

“It has been a great journey and they have already won two Ulster titles.”

So what is so special about this group?.

“It is their mental attitude, they fear nobody and that has been the same the whole way up with them.

“There is no fear in their heads, they are very sensible, very proud of their parish and all they want to do is play football.”

Mervyn reports no injuries from the final apart from a swelling around the knee of Odhran McFadden Ferry.

“Apart from that we are grand.”

So how did Mervyn feel when the whistle went in Ballybofey?

“Just wonderful and we had been waiting so long.

“When I was coming to the end of my playing days Eamon McGee took over from me at wing-back but you would not mind making way for a man like that.

“But I have been around these lads for 10 years and that makes it extra special and there is a great buzz about the place and it will shorten the dreary winter.”

He added: “All of these lads including the McGee’s, Kevin Cassidy, Odhrán Mac Niallais and Christopher McFadden are very professional and are very driven and self-motivated which makes them easier to manage.

“They know when the party is over and that is a big difference between this team and others and they are remarkably mature.”

So can Gaoth Dobhair beat Cargin?

“You have to feel that you can beat any team.

“That is the proper attitude to have going into any game

“We would be confident enough after winning that county final, knowing that we beat a very good Glenties side, a side that had a number of key players who played Crossmaglen Rangers in an Ulster final in 2010.

“And only for the late goal we would have won by ten points.”