Gweedore's Kevin Cassidy: If I’d carried on with Donegal, I’d be in stands now

Gweedore's Kevin Cassidy: If I’d carried on with Donegal, I’d be in stands now
Kevin Cassidy celebrates Gaoth Dobhair’s Ulster club success. Cassidy, 37, retired from club football two years ago but had a change of heart when brother-in-law Mervyn O’Donnell was appointed coach. Picture: Sportsfile

Kevin Cassidy thinks he has God and Jim McGuinness to thank for the sweetest moment of his career.

The premature end to Cassidy’s inter-county career after a fallout with the former Donegal manager in 2011 is well documented, but a new footnote can be written now he’s been crowned an Ulster club winner with Gweedore at the age of 37.

Cassidy defied his creaking body to deliver a masterful performance in Healy Park on Sunday, and he believes it wouldn’t have happened if events had taken a different turn.

“The man above must be looking after me because if I was to trojan on with Donegal for another three, four, or five years at that level of training, I would be sitting in the stands right now.

“Don’t get me wrong, I would still be the proudest man in the place watching these boys put our club up there as kings of Ulster, but I would have missed this.

“I’m a great believer in what’s for you won’t go past you.

“If I had stayed with Donegal, I don’t think the body would have been able to play there today, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Without a doubt it’s the best thing I’ve ever done on a football field.”

Reflecting on it all, Cassidy wondered too about a curious meeting with the Scotstown team seven weeks ago.

A week after celebrating their fourth Monaghan SFC title in a row, the Scotstown players were in Gweedore on a stag do and ended up in Cassidy’s pub, Teach Mhici.

“I was kind of quizzing them about Ulster and they had set their targets on it because they had been there before and had four Monaghan titles.

“We hadn’t won Donegal at that stage and all we were thinking about was trying to win it again for the first time in 12 years.

“In the back of your head, although you didn’t want to say it to them, you were thinking ‘it would be some craic if we met youse in Ulster’.

“In fairness to Darren Hughes he said ‘youse won’t be far away yourselves’.

“You hear different things from different counties and obviously they were keeping a wee eye on us as well, but it’s mental the way things turn out.”

After a 16-point hammering by Glenties in the county championship two years ago, Cassidy pulled the pin on club football.

However the appointment of his brother-in-law Mervyn O’Donnell as manager prompted a change of heart. His leadership at full-forward, allied to the experience of the McGees, Odhran MacNiallais, and the exuberant younger breed including Daire O Baoill and Cian Mulligan, used to winning at underage level, has whipped up a storm in the north-west.

“Things weren’t going well and we knew this new wave was coming and I thought maybe it was time to go and let them at it.

“Then Merv asked me to come back and give a dig out and last year it was mostly off the bench. Then the hunger came back and you want to see how far you can push yourself.

“Michael Boyle came in and he’s done fantastic for me personally and the training methods have given me a real lift.

“We have a fantastic blend and for your club to be Ulster champions for the next 12 months is a fantastic feeling.”

Before taking the Seamus McFerran Cup home to winter in Donegal for the first time since 1975 and begin the mother of all parties, Cassidy had some delegating to do.

All my barmen are players so I don’t know who’s going to be working over the next couple of days but sure we’ll sort it out.

Somebody will just have to hop in behind the counter.

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