The distinctive walk of Brendan Walsh along the sidelines when Glenswilly are playing has been an ever present factor in the club’s rise to the top.
Walshie is part of the furniture and has been part of almost every management team that has left the Glen for over 20 years. He has been at the hub of the development of Glenswilly from junior status to county senior champions.
“I was just going through the panel, the 24 players, I think I have managed 19 of them at underage level at different level. Neil (Gallagher) and Ciaran (Bonner) were the first I managed back in 1992. They were U-10s. I had them right up to U-21,” said Brendan, who has been involved with Gary McDaid, Francie Martin, McDaid again, John McGinley and Gary and John in 2011.
“I think I took six months off in 2012 but I got the call to come in and give Manus (McFadden) a hand and I was back with Gary in 2013.
“Two days after the Ulster final in December last year, I got the ‘phone call from Gary and he said ‘what do you think about next year. I’m thinking of giving it another try next year. I think there’s something left in this team’,” said Brendan, who is back as McDaid’s Lieutenant on the sidelines once more.
The disappointment of losing the Ulster final to Ballinderry is a driving factor, according to Walsh. “We feel we didn’t give a proper account of ourselves in the final, but in fairness to Ballinderry, they had players to spring from the bench which were game changers.
“We felt we could learn from the experience and push on this year. However, we knew we were in the Group of Death (with Kilcar and St. Michael’s), we knew we could not set our sights too high.
“We knew we had Kilcar at home. We didn’t really get going, but I knew there was something left in the team. You could get the feeling that the boys were hurting from the Kilcar game, they were liked a wounded animal,” says Walsh.
“The St. Michael’s game was very cagey. Thankfully Michael (Murphy) got the goal and we got over the line. It was the same in the semi-final. There was quality in the Glenties side but we always thought the spirit in our team was unbelievable. If we can get to the last 10 or 15 minutes level, our spirit took us through.”
Looking forward to the final, Walsh knows that their neighbours, St. Eunan’s, pose a stiff challenge. “St. Eunan’s have beaten us twice in the league and they have been very impressive. They seem to have the stomach for a fight as well. St. Michael’s put it up to them and they showed great resolve to come through.
“We are under no illusion. When you look at their squad, not just the starting team, almost all of them have played for Donegal at some level, when we have only a handful that have done that.
“We were in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday night and we took a good few notes. Gary (McDaid) sets a high standard. Gary wouldn’t ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself. He puts in a horrendous amount of work and you just follow, sort of thing.”
Asked about the nature of the championship being run over a short period, he says: “It just a matter of recovery, getting the boys patched up for each game. It’s all about seeing who you have fit and available for each weekend.
Glenswilly are well known for springing a surprise now and again but Walsh says there are none available to them. “I wish we had. Colin Kelly would love to be out there but he has a problem with his back. Keelan McFadden pulled his hamstring in training and he didn’t even take a jersey on Sunday last,” said Walsh, who also felt that the loss of Caolan Kelly through the sending off on Sunday last is a huge blow.
Walsh didn’t want to say too much about the decision, but pointed out that in the St. Eunan’s-Four Masters game there was a full blown riot in that game. They’re missing nobody and for one tackle, we’re missing Caolan. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. But you have to move on and play with the cards you are dealt,” said Walsh.
“In fairness, we have a young squad with three U-17s on the bench. We have lost Ryan Diver, who has joined the Army,” said Brendan, who added “when you have Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher, you have always got a chance!”