Despite seeing off Naomh Conaill, St. Eunan’s and Kilcar on their way to the way to Sunday’s final, Glenswilly’s feet are firmly on the ground.
That is the one big difference between Glenswilly in 2011, and Glenswilly in recent years according Gary ‘Copper’ McFadden, the man who will lead them into Sunday’s final with St. Michael’s.
“In other years if we had beaten a team like Glenties, or St. Eunan’s or Kilcar, we would have got carried away with ourselves and think we had the championship won,” insisted McFadden.
“This year is different. After we beat Glenties, we kept our feet on the ground and realised it was just one win and that there was still a lot of good teams left in the championship and that we had a good few hurdles still to jump.”
It was a similar story in the Glenswilly camp after the win over St. Eunan’s and Kilcar, there was still no trophy on display in Pairc Naomh Columba and no cause for celebration. No, it was straight back down to work and preparing for the next challenge.
“After big games this year, instead of going off and celebrating we were back training the following night either down at the pitch or in the gym and really that was the big difference this year.”
The skipper also feels the introduction of a number of younger players to the panel has also played a huge part in the club’s change of fortune and march to the final.
“When we were in the final in 2007, we had 15 players and probably one good player on the bench, say 16 players and after that we were struggling. But this year five or six young players have come in and they have really strengthened the squad and the team and it now means we have a lot more options.
“Players like Ruairi Crawford, Rory McDaid, Leon Kelly, Brian Farrelly and Brian McDaid have come in and they have made a huge difference and have given Gary and John options. Eamonn Ward has also joined us from Monaghan and he made a big difference and has been a big asset to the team.
“We certainly needed them all this year given that Michael (Murphy) and Neil (Gallagher) were away with the county so much, and we had so many injuries. If the young players had not come in we would have really struggled at times.
“This year we were without Ciaran Bonner for the replay game with St. Eunan’s and he was only able to come on for the last few minutes against Kilcar, but we still managed to get through both games. That would not have happened in the past. ”
The disappointment of that heavy 2007 final defeat to St. Eunan’s still lingers in Glenswilly and is a sore point with Copper and his team mates who were part of the team and squad in 2007. That defeat along with last year’s semi-final defeat by Naomh Conaill and one or two other close calls is a mighty motivating force for Gary his men this time around. It is an opportunity in their eyes to set the record straight.
“There is no question about it, there still is a lot of hurt and disappointment around from 2007. We simply did not turn up on the day and the game passed us by and that is what disappoints us most. We got all caught up in all the hype beforehand and forgot about the game.
“This time around we are determined it will be different. I feel the 2007 experience will definitely stand to us, and that hopefully we turn up and give a good account of ourselves.”
But that 0-12 to 0-3 defeat to their arch rivals is not Gary McFadden and Glenswilly’s only motivating force.
“Since 2007, we’ve had a good few disappointments. In 2009, we took St. Eunan’s to a third game before bowing out, and last year we got caught in the semi-final with a couple of late kicks by Glenties before they went on to win the championship and go all the way to the Ulster final.
“Those defeats have left a lot of hurt and pain and makes us even more determined to make amends this year.”
Gary is in his second term as captain. He was also wearing the armband back in 2007. But he was only 20 back then, and did not fully appreciate the role and what was required from a captain.
While he admits at being a little surprised at the start of the year when Gary McDaid approached him and asked him to take on the role again this year he also insists he appreciates the role more now and sees it as a great honour.
“It is a great honour and great privilege to be captain of this team and group of players and lead them into a county final. I have been around the team eight or nine years and they are a great bunch of fellows and we have been through a lot together.
“We’ve had good days and bad days and high and lows in all that time. But I feel we are more mature now and have learned a fair few lessons along the way and I think the experience of playing in a county final and having experienced the occasion will stand to us.
“It is a matter of going out now and performing on the day and making up for all the hurt and disappointment of the past.
“We definitely feel we have the players and are good enough to win it and we would not be in the final if we were not. It is a matter of now just a matter of going out and getting everything right on the day.”
Sunday could just be that day. But Gary also accepts that they are up against it and insists that St. Michael’s are quality opposition and it is going to take a top class performance if they are to finally bring an end to those years of heartbreak and disappointment.