Reborn at the edge of the square, Cassidy looks fit, fiery and firing! And that can only be bad news for Cross…!!!
There was a great spake to be heard on the Corrigan Park embankment, last Sunday.
The frantic nature synonymous with the opening stanzas of Ulster Club Championship football halted in it’s tracks with Kieran Gillespie’s unfortunate demise, patrons and pundits alike, could forgive both sets of players if despondency reigned.
But if the moments leading up to Cian Mulligan polishing off a fantastic Gaoth Dobhair move for the opening score of the game, had been a bit tentative for those following the ball, those following the craic up at the top goals, got a bit more value for their buck.
It would have been no secret to Damien Cassidy and the Cargin side, that his namesake Kevin, would take up residence at the edge of the Toome men’s small rectangle. The two-time All-Star has enjoyed a renaissance at the prong of the Donegal side’s attack during this season, alongside his old china Eamonn McGee. Two elder gents showing a few young men how it’s done – and no doubt, it’s their way or the highway, for the moment.
John McNabb and his full-back line were certainly aware of the presence, it’s fair to say. Whether it was pre-game strategy to try to get inside the big man’s head, or whether bore out of the tedium of those opening few minutes, the verbal tangle, was enough to spur one ganch Cargin supporter into song.
“Ho, ho. There’s the messing with Cassidy started now, boys!”
Hindisght’s a wonderful thing in GAA, as it is with all sport. It’s easy for anyone to turn round four days after a game and call a particular play or tactic, a bit shortsighted, a bit, ill-advised. But last Sunday, on that grassy knoll, it took all of four seconds for a wisened, commanding, if a touch, nasally, North-Western retort.
“They picked the wrong man to mess with.”
The nasal wasn’t far wrong.
Stopping just shy of turning green and obliterating the fresh white geansaí, laid on especially for the day’s run out, Cassidy got angry.
Slamming over his first point of the game in the fourteenth minute, the quick glance to eyeball his detractors gave a clue as to what was imminent. The next fourteen minutes rendered a further 1-02 for the 36 year-old publican, in what was the most languidly intimidating of “f*ck you’s” to the lough shore side’s back seven.
By right, it killed the game as a contest – eye of the ball for ten minutes at the start of the second-half, granted.
Being the wrong side of thirty-five, hasn’t exactly withered the man. If anything, he looked as sharp and as strong as he ever did, in gathering ball and contesting in the air. This rôle nouveau if anything, has brought about a rebirth, so to speak. No longer the dynamic enforcer, relentlessly marshalling from half-back, Cassidy’s size and power have made him a thunderously impacting compliment, to what is a forward line awash with the more intricate, but no more palatable, skills of Naoise and James Boyle, Michael Carroll, Cian Mulligan and Eamon Collum.
There’s one thing for sure – he can still take a hit. He and a few others at Mervyn O’Donnell’s disposal. The soaking up of that physicality, which only a fool would think he didn’t enjoy, will prove crucial against Crossmaglen at Healy Park in ten days time.
James Morgan, Alan Farrelly, Rico Kelly. Shrinking violets they most certainly are not. If anyone had forgotten the physical intensity that the Rangers bring to affairs at this level, then revision of this Autumn’s encounters against Cullyhanna, Ballymacnab and Saturday night’s battle with Coalisland are to be encouraged.
They’ll know themselves at St. Oliver Plunkett’s Park, that going to war with Gaoth Dobhair, the same way they did Coalisland, will most likely prove a pursuit of folly. There are just too many brick walls to knock down in the Donegal champions side.
But should the likes of Cassidy, Eamonn McGee and, friend of the show, Peter McGee, assert themselves on a defence that, up until now, has relied on sheer brute force to overcome those aforementioned, then the ability to absorb and relish the physical side of things, may bear fruit for their more nimbler kinsmen.
There’s also the issue his left peg, and the potential of a returning Odhrán Mac Niallais to occupy Donal Murtagh and Kieran Donnelly’s thoughts.
Perhaps, best advised, to forego the verbal tangles, however.
Don’t make him angry, lads! You wouldn’t like him, when he’s angry!