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'The parish was just completely raw and numb. To get back to the sanctuary of the GAA pitch was good.'

Kevin Cassidy on the impact on the Gaoth Dobhair GAA club after the tragic death of team-mate Mícheál Roarty.

The funeral of Micheal Roarty at the Sacred Heart Church in Dunlewey, in County Donegal last week.
The funeral of Micheal Roarty at the Sacred Heart Church in Dunlewey, in County Donegal last week.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

THE FIRST SUNDAY of last December was a milestone for the north-west Donegal community of Gaoth Dobhair as they were crowned Ulster senior club football champions for the first time.

Memorable celebrations ensued after that final with the excitement continuing over the Christmas period and anticipation increasing in January at the prospect of an upcoming AIB All-Ireland SFC semi-final date against Galway’s Corofin on 16 February.

But then their focus shifted from football last week when the locality was plunged into grief. Gaoth Dobhair club player 24-year-old Mícheál Roarty was one of four young men killed in a horrific road crash in Donegal.

Kevin Cassidy is a central figure for the Donegal club with plenty experience of major football occasions behind him and describes the shock that has hit their parish.

“I think none of our players were thinking about Corofin this time last week, it was all about shock and trying to process it all.

“It was tough at the start. Since then we’ve kind of regrouped, we went back training the night after the funeral. It was good to be back with the boys and get back to something that feels normal to you.

“The last couple of days were something I’ve never ever experienced before in my life. The parish was just completely raw and numb. To get back to the sanctuary of the GAA pitch was good. Since then we’ve just rolled with it.

“Obviously when it happened you don’t really care about football to be honest. But then in the back of your mind, you’re thinking you’ve the biggest game of your life to play in a week or so time, so you have to get ready. That’s really what we’ve been doing.”

Roarty was a hugely popular member of their squad.

“I would have played against one of them and I would have known the other two lads but obviously Mícheál Roarty was a team-mate of ours. He trained with us that Saturday morning so he would have been around our squad.

“A very talented player, a serious character. Everybody knew him. If there was ever a night out, he was always there. You’re still waiting to see him pop up or you’re still waiting to see him come out of a changing room. It’s tough for us but for the family it must be really, really tough. All we can do is try and do as much as we can to try and help with that.”

Cassidy admits they are conscious of not trying now to make winning the All-Ireland club title ‘a crusade’ after the tragedy.

“I think we’ve spoken about that. I think it’s important to distance the two. Obviously Mícheál was a good friend but I don’t think you can go and make a crusade out of something and try to say we’re going to do this. All we can do is next Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon, try and put our performance that our supporters would be proud of, hopefully Mícheál’s family would be proud of. That’s all we can really do.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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