Kevin Cassidy enjoying a new lease of life in the green and white of Gaoth Dobhair

He has sampled the highs and lows of Gaelic football, but Kevin Cassidy is enjoying his football again with high-flying Gaoth Dobhair, writes Tom Comack

Kevin Cassidy enjoying a new lease of life in the green and white of Gaoth Dobhair

A little over two years ago Kevin Cassidy had enough of football and he called time on his club career with Gaoth Dobhair.

The double All-Star and former Donegal captain had tasted the good times and the downside of the game.

Controversially, he lost out on Donegal’s biggest day in recent times - the 2012 All-Ireland final win over Mayo.

The former Compromise Rule International was sensationally dropped from the Donegal squad by the then Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.

Cassidy’s crime was that he had contributed to a book - ‘This Is Our Year’ - by Fermanagh journalist Declan Bogue.

That was early in 2012 and it effectively ended the Gaoth Dobhair man’s inter-county career.

Fast-forward to early September 2016, and Gaoth Dobhair man suffered the mother and father of a beating in a group championship game against Naomh Conaill in Davy Brennan Memorial Park in Glenties.

Naomh Conaill won that game at a canter by 13 points, 2-18 to 0-11 after one of the most dispirited championship performance from the men from Magheragallon for many’s the long day.

Gaoth Dobhair also lost to Termon in the 2016 championship group stages and missed out on a place in the quarter-finals once again as Naomh Conaill and Termon emerged from the group.

Cassidy had enough.

As he scanned the dressing room that day in Glenties he saw a talented group of players, among them a number of experienced and quality players.

But somehow the team could not get it together and the teacher at Little Angels School in Letterkenny wasn’t going to hang around anymore.

So it is little wonder reaching an Ulster final never mind being touted as potential provincial champions wasn’t even on Kevin’s radar as he and Gaoth Dobhair set out at the start of this season.

“The thought of making it to the Donegal final never mind the Ulster final was a long way from my thinking when we started out, given our record in recent years,” he said.

Kevin had a change of heart over Christmas when brother-in-law Mervyn O’Donnell took on the challenge and was appointed manager of the club’s senior team.

“Mervyn and myself had a chat about it and he encouraged me to stay. He said I still had a lot to offer and there was awful lot of talent coming through from underage.”

The double All-Star didn’t take an awful lot of persuading and he is glad he had a change of heart. Two seasons after hanging up the boots, he’s now looking forward to an Ulster final showdown with the Monaghan champions Scotstown.

“We had a good season last year and I suppose this year so far has been brilliant,” he said.

“I know we went out of the championship last year in the semi-final to Glenties. But given that we hadn’t qualified for the quarter-final in a number of years, it was a good season and we felt we made progress.

“We learned from that defeat to Glenties and it has made us a better team as a result.”

Gaoth Dobhair made amends by turning that 1-13 to 1-12 defeat into a seven point, 0-17 to 1-7 County Final win over Naomh Conaill back in October.

They have kicked on in Ulster with four point wins over Antrim champions Cargin in the first round and the mighty Crossmaglen in the semi-final.

And Kevin Cassidy is enjoying every minute of it.

“Ulster has been great. It is a good bit more physical than football in Donegal,” he said.

“From the first game against Cargin and the last day against Crossmaglen, the games have been physical and hard hitting and played at a much higher pace than we have been used to in most of our games here in the county.

“It is real championship football and they were great games to play in. The first day against Cargin, it was real honest to goodness football, the way most people want the game played.

“I’m really enjoying the football and the good thing about the younger players, they are picking up a wealth of experience which can only be good long term.”

Scotstown are four-in-a-row champions of Monaghan and are appearing in their second Ulster decider in the space of four seasons.

In his job as a columnist with Gaelic Life, Kevin has a good bit of knowledge about the Monaghan men.

“They have dominated Monaghan over the last few years and have won the last four Monaghan finals,” he said.

“They were in the final three years ago and gave a good account of themselves against Crossmaglen and are a good side.”

But despite their reputation Scotstown don’t put the fear of God in Gaoth Dobhair.

The former All-Star defender who is enjoying a new lease of life in the No. 14 shirt insists Gaoth Dobhair’s focus is on their own preparations and their own game.

“It is all about getting ourselves right and if we play to our potential and play the football we are capable of, I feel we have a good chance,” he said.