Kevin Cassidy

Kevin Cassidy: Long live The King

THE MAN...Kevin Cassidy has a lot of time for Brian McEniff

THE MAN…Kevin Cassidy has a lot of time for Brian McEniff

OUR passion for the game is the most powerful tool that the GAA, as an organisation, has in its armour but where does this passion come from?

Is it instilled in us by our parents or siblings? Are we hooked as kids after our first match or training session? Are we influenced by teams or players that we grew up watching?


Last Saturday evening I made my way to the seaside town of Bundoran to play a league match for Gweedore. As I pulled into the ground I noticed a familiar looking figure pacing the sideline during the reserve match, that man was the one and only Brian McEniff.

You will probably have gathered from my previous columns that Brian and I have a good relationship and as I witnessed him roaring at the referee during that reserve game with the same venom and passion that he had while I played under him when he was county manager, it brought a smile to my face.

Here stands a man who has done it all both as a player and a manager at county and club level, while at the same time working himself into the ground to create one of the most successful hotel chains in the country, and he still has the time and passion to man the sideline during a reserve match for his club.

I may as well also add that he is chairman of the club this year but then again it’s Brian McEniff we are talking about so that shouldn’t surprise me.

I chatted to Brian after our match and we shared a few laughs and as I drove home from Bundoran my mind wandered as to how people like Brian become so attached to the game. Attached enough to devote their whole life to it.

To me Brian McEniff is everything that is good about Donegal GAA. From
playing to becoming player/manager to county chairman back to manager a few times, he has done it all – not to mention that he has filled all the same positions for his club down through the years.

To me what made him so special was the fact that he did truly love his county and players and that love exists to this day. Perhaps it’s just me but when you move away from county football you are never quite as attached to it as to when you are playing in the sense that it slips well down your pecking order, but for Gaels like Brian it remains number one in their lives and this is incredible.

My gripe with this is that sometimes that love can be unrequited. The more you give then sometimes the less respect you get for it.

What I mean by that is that this county is full of people who begrudged Brian his success and glory. Brian, for me, has been the single most important person in the history of Donegal GAA.

Yes there are others who have done Trojan work but Brian has stepped up to the plate time and time again when no one else would put their neck on the line.
When a team is doing well you will have any amount of people who want to lend a hand but the true sign of a person is someone that will dig in when the seas are rough.

I’m not sure if it was because Brian was a successful business man or if it was it because he seemed to do well in every role he took within the GAA, but by God he had some begrudgers and that is the part that annoyed me the most.

In other counties people like Brian would be celebrated but not here in the hills. Here we rather cut the legs from anyone who achieves a little something.

I shared many a good laugh with Brian but you always knew deep down that he cared for your well being long after the final whistle had blown and to me that meant an awful lot.

Any time I would mess up or try and take a hand at him at training or in meetings he would just grin and say “just you wait Cass till I write the book.” That book never did materialise but if it did I, and many others, would be running for cover.

One of my favourite yarns about Brian, of which there are many, came one day as we made our way to an important Championship match. The team bus came to an unexpected halt outside a little chapel hall in Pettigo just before we crossed the border.

Brian took the mic and said “men gather yourself up we are going in here for a drop of tae and to mix with the good people of Donegal.” So in we went. Margo’s hit “Walking Tall in Donegal” was blaring out of a small cassette player in the corner of the hall with tea and buns to beat the band.

I was a bit pissed of with him at the time because I had a gameday routine that consisted of entering the bus at the Abbey Hotel in Donegal Town, sitting in a seat on my own putting on my head phones and not speaking a word to anyone until just before we left the dressing room to start the game.

Now instead of sticking to my routine I was wandering around a Chapel hall drinking tea (which I never drink) and talking to some old fella asking me if I had any cattle at home, you couldn’t write it.

I quickly returned to the bus and stuck in my headphones but that was an example of what McEniff was all about, no matter what was happening or what game had to be played there was no one more important than the Donegal people and that was his way of showing us that.

It was great to see the King of Donegal football patrolling the sidelines at his beloved Bundoran at the weekend. It is there that he is at his happiest and I’m sure if you asked him where he would like to spend his final moments it would be on a GAA field surrounded by his family and friends. Long live the King!

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