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Kevin Cassidy: 'It was to see if I could help out, maybe off the bench. It's funny the way things develop'

Donegal club Gaoth Dobhair are gearing up for their first All-Ireland senior club semi-final appearance.

Kevin Cassidy and Kieran Fitzgerald will face off on Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Kevin Cassidy and Kieran Fitzgerald will face off on Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Image: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

FOR KEVIN CASSIDY the club football game looked to be up a couple of years ago.

The two-time All-Star winner with Donegal had made the move into retirement, ostensibly drawing a line under his career with Gaoth Dobhair.

And yet he was coaxed back, his role grew in prominence and he finds himself helping his club into unchartered territory next Saturday with an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway giants Corofin.

“Yeah, two and a half years ago, I finished. I probably could have still played, but I thought I wanted to do other things in life and also, we’d a fantastic group of players coming through. My opinion was that if a few of the older boys stepped back, they could take the whole thing themselves.

“It’s funny the way it works. The manager is a brother in law of mine and he asked me to come (back). At the start it was to see if I could help out, maybe off the bench. It’s funny the way things develop. I think, as an athlete, once you get in there the hunger comes back very quickly. You don’t want to sit on the bench, you want to play. That’s just the way it fell this year.”

It has been a memorable campaign. They rose to the top in Donegal for the first time in twelve seasons before a maiden Ulster crown was delivered in a energy-sapping encounter with Scotstown. They got the chance to toast the provincial crown with a long hiatus until the All-Ireland semi-final and seized that chance to celebrate.

“We’d worked hard up until that with the county final and also when the Ulster (championship) happened, it was pretty full on. If you weren’t training, you were recovering or you were doing rehab or you were doing something so honestly to get the first Ulster title was massive for us.

“We really, really enjoyed it and it was great to know you didn’t have to half watch yourself because you’d a game down the line. You could let loose, we knew we’d enough time to get back at it then again. So it was good.”

He’s mindful of the threat Corofin pose. All-Ireland winners last year, they also collected the crow in 2015. Another veteran of Cassidy’s vintage is still doing a job for them in Kieran Fitzgerald.

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Corofin celebrate winning in the changing room Corofin players savour their Connacht senior club final win over Ballintubber. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Kieran, I think the last time we were together was on an All-Star trip in 2003. That’s a long, long way back! He’s a fantastic warrior, central to what Corofin do. It looks like we’re going to come head-to-head on Saturday. So, we’ll so how that goes.

“In my opinion, they are the best club team at the minute. They have been for four or five years. Everything they do, the attention to detail. Obviously, when you’re playing a team, you hear what they’re doing and different things. You know, they’ve sent camera men to our games and stuff since. It just shows that they’re really focused on what they want to do.”

Gaoth Dobhair have plotted and planned for this tie. Ten of their squad are based in Dublin, a bunch still studying in college. Their commitment is unquestioned though and they draw them home to the north-west at weekends.

Gweedore team celebrate with the Seamus MacFerran Cup Gaoth Dobhair players celebrate their Ulster senior club final victory. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Last Thursday night they met in Omagh to hone in on some tactical work. Cassidy senses the squad are aware of the magnitude of this occasion.

“We’ve a lot of good people within our squad who speak, and who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Obviously I hope they go on and I’ll be standing watching them in Croke Park for years to come, but it might not happen ever again.

“So there’s that when you are here, you have to make the most of it. I think we really drove that home all through Ulster campaign, and now that we’re in a semi-final it’s even bigger again.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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