Colm Anthony has set the bar high for future Donegal stars

Colm Anthony has set the bar high for future Donegal stars

Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Colm Anthony has left the stage. And just like he did on the field, there was no fuss, just a part of business. A job to be done and when it was finished, move on to the next task.

But even though Colm Anthony McFadden will no longer run on to MacCumhaill Park with the No. 13 shirt on his back, his legacy of 25 goals and 434 points has set a target for all the young hotshots to follow.

On Saturday night last in the Abbey Hotel, the St. Michael's man was honoured with the 'green jacket' along with his friend, Eamon McGee, as the pair move into another chapter of life - both now family men.

"I was talking to Levina, my wife, this week and I was saying this would be last time I would be coming into the Abbey Hotel like this; we came in here for pre-match meals; we came in here for meetings; we came in here to celebrate Ulster championships and All-Irelands. It is definitely something that I will miss but the time was right (for retirement).

"Time comes for every man to step away and I have to be thankful that I was so lucky to play for so long and be injury free. And the fact that I was successful on top of that, I'm just lucky," was the typical reaction of Colm.

A minor at the age of 16, himself and clubmate Christy Toye almost turned hot favourites Down over in the 1999 Ulster final. He would play three years at minor before being immediately catapulted into the senior ranks.

"When you are young, you go with the flow. You don't be thinking too far ahead. I suppose if you go back to U-15 and the Ted Webb team, I did that when I was 14 and I remember that time there were no texts or no 'phones. I remember looking at the Donegal Democrat on the Thursday to see the name in the paper for that.

"That was probably the first time. Before that you never thought you would be playing county football, especially in our part of the county; very few players came from it. That was probably the first step, and probably when I played, I thought I played well enough.

"And then to be asked up to the minors when I was 16. I was called in before the first game and Christy (Toye) was called in before the final and he came on in the final and hit the equalising point," said Colm.

"Senior is a big step up, even for the minors at the minute. That will not happen overnight. I definitely wouldn't have forseen that I would play that many times," he said.

It took the young McFadden a little while to make the shirt his own, but not too long. "When I came in at 18, it was difficult to get in. That time you had Adrian Sweeney and Brendan Devenney inside in a two-man full-forward line. It wasn't easy trying to break into that team. Finally, I made the breakthrough, but it took a few more years before Jim came in that we finally got success."

But while there were lean years, there was a National League title in 2007 under Brian McIvor before the breakthrough came. And while the 2012 All-Ireland success was important, the previous year was where it began, according to Colm.

"Everyone talks about the All-Ireland title in 2012 and that it was a special moment for us, but that Ulster title in 2011 is up there with the All-Ireland final. We waited so long; the fact that we waited so long makes it that bit more special.

"I remember before Jim (McGuinness) came in, me and (Rory) Kavanagh were in the gym in Letterkenny; we were 26/27 at that time. We just wanted someone to come in and tell us to do this, to do that; we would do it. We were lucky that Jim came in but Jim was lucky that he had players who were really starving for success."

The St. Michael's man feels the All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Dublin in 2011 was also an important building block.

"I think it was a blessing that we got beat that day. We knew we could hold these teams; which was probably a weakness of ours down the years; we would fold. We knew we could compete with the best and we knew the feeling of playing in an All-Ireland semi-final and we had the hunger to go that one step further the following year.

"On top of that, we learned a lot and Jim knew that we had to be more offensive. There were more plusses from that defeat than negatives."

But while losing the 2014 All-Ireland final to Kerry was very disappointing, McFadden was equally disappointed at losing the Ulster final the previous year.

"For me losing the Ulster final in 2013 was equally disappointing. The Ulster title means so much to us. If we had won three in-a-row it would have been very special for us. I think Armagh were the only other team (in recent times) to have done that.

"You can look on those disappointing days and say I wish we had won that day. But you have to reflect on your whole career, and I would prefer to look at winning three Ulsters and one All-Ireland," he said.

As for regrets, there are none, but he did express the feeling that Mickey Moran did not have a longer stay in the county.

"Jim is the obvious man that stands out (as regards managers). But my mind goes back to Mickey Moran, who took me in first as a 17-year-old. I was still a minor the following year. I was up at training one night and he found out and he said he thought I was finished with minor and he told me to concentrate on minor and come in the following year.

"I only got the chance to work with Mickey for one year. He is probably the one man I would play under and work under. His philosphy and passion for football was class. At that stage I was probably too immature to appreciate it," said Colm.

"I would half love to do it all over again. There were plenty of mistakes, plenty of shots kicked wide; saves that the 'keepers made. But it was the things that you learned that helped us get over the line in the All-Ireland final.

"If I give you an example it would be the goal chance I had against Dublin in the semi-final(in 2011). Murphy gave me the ball and gave your boy a dummy and I was through for goal. In that split second, this is Cluxton; this is the best 'keeper in Ireland, I will have to hit this a wee bit harder. I hit it harder and went over the bar.

"I learned that day to keep it low and then the following year I had the goal in the All-Ireland final and I kept it low along the ground, the one the 'keeper struggles with."

As for now he has no big plans for the future or any inkling to get involved at county level.

"I don't think you could say yes or no to now. I'm involved with St. Eunan's college team at the moment in the Ranafast Cup and I have really enjoyed watching them develop throughout last year's campaign and this year.

"Coaching teams is something that I will get involved with and I hope to get involved with the club this year and I will be involved with the school as long as I'm teaching in it.

"At the time being I'll stick to the club and the school."

It just the same as he was on the field; no fuss. Get the job done and move on!

I have a good feeling that Colm will be able to enjoy retirement just as he enjoyed playing!