Kevin Cassidy’s Gaoth Dobhair anthem was in full flow on Sunday evening after the Donegal club rewrote the history books by winning the Ulster Club Championship in their first final.
It was fairytale stuff, getting their noses in front with the final point, after trailing Scotstown from the 14th minute until midway through the second period of extra-time.
It was a victory for sheer determination on a pitch that was just about playable and did not suit the type of open football that Gaoth Dobhair like to play.
The Donegal champions were forced to alter their game plan to suit the conditions and the more defence-minded Scotstown. They were never going to get the chance to power through the middle like they did against Crossmaglen.
It was their sheer stubborn resistance which really stood out, especially when the Monaghan side went three clear.
The aforementioned Kevin Cassidy was central to the win, not just for the way he led the line, but for his ‘good Cop’ reaction when Gaoth Dobhair players and mentors went to vent their anger at Michael Carroll’s ‘winning point’ being disallowed by Cavan referee, Noel Mooney. If Cass wants to change jobs, then an appointment with the United Nations Peace Keeping committee is on the cards.
In deflecting and calming the situation and then going back to give the referee a hug before going to the dressing room for extra-time showed extraordinary experience and maturity. Deep down, he probably felt the same antagonism as the other Gaoth Dobhair representatives, but he knew he needed to get his team focussed once again.
And the rest is history.
In those actions and his general contribution to the game, in my mind, Cassidy would have been a joint man of the match along with the silky skilled Odhrán Mac Niallais. Mac Niallais is really enjoying his football and the forwards benefitted from his accurate passes.
There were many others who really impressed, not least young Odhrán McFadden Ferry, who kept Monaghan senior, Kieran Hughes ‘occupied’ throughout. When in possession, he always asked the question of Hughes and relished the physical nature of the game.
Hats off also to the four Gaoth Dobhair substitutes, who all played a big part with James Boyle returning quickly to the field after a heavy hit, to fist an equalising point, while Seaghan Ferry showed composure to hit the winner.
Speaking to seasoned Gaoth Dobhair club people on Monday, the name of Michael Boyle was high on the list of the reason for the turnaround this season. Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh likened what he had done for Gaoth Dobhair to Jim McGuinness and Donegal. High praise, but that seems to be a line that has been consistent in the last few months.
What was really noticeable on Sunday was that all of Donegal was behind Gaoth Dobhair in their quest to break the Donegal hoodoo. The 11-week break until the All-Ireland semi-final is just ludicrous. I know it is the same for the Connacht champions, Corofin, but surely this competition needs to be completed sooner. Having club players train for 11 weeks for an All-Ireland semi-final makes no sense.
I’m sure they weren’t worrying about that in Gaoth Dobhair this week and there might still be the odd verse of ‘Beautiful Sunday’ along with ‘Gleanntáin Ghlas' Ghaoth Dobhair’ in the Magheragallon air.
One footnote before leaving the game was the performance of the referee. On the day, I felt the decision against Odhrán McFadden Ferry and the Shane Carey sending off were harsh, but when reviewing them on Sunday night in the TG4 replay, they were both correct decisions. Which goes to show that making comments about referee decisions on the spot is just as difficult as the decisions that the referee has to make on the spot. They were too big calls and were both correct. Without the TV cameras referee Noel Mooney would have been harshly criticised!
St. Joseph’s celebrate
It was a little ironic that the night before the Ulster final, St. Joseph’s were having a reunion to remember their Ulster and All-Ireland club wins of 1968. A good number of the Galway three in-a-row team involved with Dunmore McHales made the trip to Bundoran for the event, while the St. Joseph’s team were there in force to reminisce about the win.
St. Joseph’s were the kingpins in Donegal in the 1960s and 1970s, winning seven championships, which probably didn’t make them very popular. But still they had a very good bunch of footballers and they proved that with their success. They went on to win the first official Ulster club title in 1975, and until Gaoth Dobhair’s success, that was the only Donegal success.
Amalgamations have faded from the Donegal scene in our time, but the chances are that with population decline, they could return in the future.
The argument about whether the St. Joseph’s amalgamation was good for Ballyshannon and Bundoran still rages, but one thing’s for sure, the players who were good enough for first team action enjoyed the time and the success which they achieved.
St. Joseph’s were honoured along with the other Ulster winners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Ulster Club Championship at half-time in Sunday’s game with Brian McEniff and Seamie Granaghan representing Bundoran and Pauric McShea representing Ballyshannon. That Ulster winning team was captained by Teddy Kane.