By Michael McMullan
SATURDAY was a 37th consecutive senior game for Paul Cassidy since hitting net as a substitute on his debut in a win over Longford in Celtic Park at the heel of 2020.
It was the first game after the Covid lockdown, a night when Glen duo Conor Glass and Ethan Doherty also made their debuts.
Cassidy came on as a sub for his championship debut against Armagh 14 days later. Aside from coming off the bench in the 2021 league final win over Offaly, he has started all 34 other games.
When interviewed after last season’s Ulster final win over Donegal, the Bellaghy man said the key to his progress was following Rory Gallagher’s advice to the letter.
Cassidy kicked a point wither either foot on Saturday evening and sprayed a crossfield pass for Odhran Lynch’s point, as Derry switched the play to perfection.
When Lynch hit him a 26th minute pass, he spun out of two Fermanagh players with perfection before putting on the turbo boost to find the net and a 2-7 to 0-3 Derry lead.
“It is good to get games with a championship feel and with games under your belt; it makes you a far better team,” Cassidy said.
The Oakleafers carried the favourites’ tag, but Cassidy was just happy to be playing and doing whatever it takes to keep his side on the upward curve.
“It is good to keep the injuries away and the game time up,” Cassidy said about playing his 37th game in a succession.
It’s all about work and attitude and aiming for the 100 per cent effort marker.
In the match programme, Cassidy highlighted his father Kevin and late Grandfather Harry as his career’s biggest influences.
Harry Cassidy managed Bellaghy’s 1972 All-Ireland winning team, was the club’s chairman for three decades and was part of the Derry 1958 squad to reach the All-Ireland senior final.
On the eve of his grandfather’s funeral, Paul was on the losing Derry team against Dublin in the league final.
Despite being on the losing team, he kicked two points and ran at the Dubs at every opportunity while making himself a kick-out target.
“Everyone does an equal amount of work,” Cassidy modestly said of his performance on Saturday in Brewster Park, taking his Derry career scoring tally to 3-30 – all from play.
“It’s the attitude; you have to keep it up to 100 per cent…in training and in matches. Even if you are playing bad, it is your attitude. If you play well or not, you have to go hard for the team and play for the team.”
Derry now face Monaghan on Saturday week in a repeat of last year’s Ulster semi-final with a new group stage All-Ireland format to follow.
“Ulster is very open any anything can happen in it. We’ll have to take it game by game,” Cassidy said, unperturbed by the flow of games coming down the tracks. “It is nearly professional this level of football, so we are used to it now.”