You can take the man out of Donegal, but you will never take Donegal out of the man. That is true when it comes to Dungloe born and bred Charlie Glackin or as he is known in his native Rosses, Charles John.
Charlie is as Donegal today as he was the day he left his home on the Quay Road to be begin his career as a member of the Garda Siochana.
While in his early years as a Garda he was stationed in Carrickmacross, the bulk of his 40 years in the police force were spent in Cavan , the most of them in Virginia, where he still resides in his retirement.
The Donegal roots are best shown when it comes to GAA and following the fortunes of the green and gold. He is an avid follower of county teams at all levels. Regardless of the age group if they wear the jersey Charlie follows their fortunes and rarely misses an underage match in and around the Cavan and Monaghan area.
He rarely misses a Donegal senior game, and for many years was a travelling companion of the late Cormac McGill, better known as The Follower in these pages in the not too distant past.
“I have to be careful here. All my family are Cavan supporters, but I’m always Donegal. I also follow Cavan and I always support Cavan except when they play Donegal. On those days it is no contest. Donegal is my county and my team,” Charlie.
When Charlie first moved across the border from Carrickmacross to Ballyconnell in the Spring of 1963, Down and his adopted Breffni Co. were the kings in Ulster.
“Cavan had already won 34 of their 39 Ulster titles and were the aristocrats while Down had just emerged and had won three Ulsters and two All-Irelands.
“Between them they won nine Ulster titles between 1959 and 1969, with Down winning seven and Cavan two,” said Charlie.
But the tide was turning.
“We (Donegal) reached our first Ulster final in 1963 beating Cavan by 11 points in the semi-final and we beat them again in the first round on our way to our second Ulster final in 1966. Down beat us in both finals.
“That was a very good Donegal team. You had Seamus Hoare in goals, Bernard Brady at full-back, Sean O’Donnell and John Hannigan, Paul Kelly in the half-backline, Frankie McFeely and P.J. Flood in midfield and Cormac Breslin and Sean Ferriter in the forward line. Cormac was four years ahead of me in St. Eunan’s.
“And we beat them again in the semi-final in 1972, the year we won our first Ulster title. “Those victories in 1963 and ’66 along with the first round win and particular the drawn game in Breffni Park, and Martin McHugh’s equalising last gasp point in 1992 are the games and results that stick in my mind.
“They were all great games and great days for Donegal and I suppose especially for a Donegal man living in Cavan. But I have to say they are great supporters and they never begrudged us any of those successes and were fully behind us once those games were over and they were really delighted to see us win the All-Ireland in 1992.”
Cavan got revenge in the 1997 semi-final when under the guidance of Martin McHugh, they ended Donegal’s championship ambitions before going onto claim their 39th Ulster crown and first in 28 years.
“It was a disappointing result at the time but once it was over I followed Cavan and I suppose it was especially pleasing for me when they beat Derry to win the Ulster final that they were managed by a Donegal man. Martin (McHugh) did a fantastic job and they still think very highly of him in Cavan. They have not won Ulster since.”
What of Sunday’s game and what is the Cavan view?
“Cavan supporters are always very optimistic. They always get excited at the start of the championship every year. Cavan is a big GAA county and they are the best supporters in the country despite so little success down the years. 1997 was their last Ulster success, but despite this they keep coming back every season full of hope and optimism.
“This year is no different. They see Donegal as a very good team and see Jim McGuinness as doing a very good job. But there are no certainties and they will play to the best. Football is on the up here. The minors had a good win in the championship over Antrim last weekend and the U-21s won Ulster, so they are not without hope.”
And what does Charlie think?
“Donegal are the form team. They are a big strong team and are all very skilful footballers and have good forwards. I expect them to win, though with Cavan at home and a big support behind them it will not be easy.”
While Charlie insisted there are no certainties one thing is certain; he will make the short trip from Virginia to Cavan town brave and early on Sunday. He will be in Kingspan Breffni Park long before throw-in time and have the usual chat with Hughie and Jimmy O’Donnell for the word from back home in the Rosses, while he may also have a quick chin wag with Mickey Forker (Bonner).
He will most definitely touch base with Brendan and Mary O’Reilly and receive the latest team news and gossip from Edmund Brennan and Danny McMenamin. It’s all part and parcel of the big day.
Despite being over close on fifty years living and working in the Breffni county Charlie will be fully behind his native Donegal even if he leaves the green and gold scarf at home on Sunday.
“I never wear the colours against Cavan. I don’t think it would be right, but that does not stop me from being fully behind Donegal. Hopefully, we will win,” concludes Donegal’s Cavan man who admits that he never played the game at any great level.