You have to go back ten years to find the last team to have won back-to-back senior championships.
In 2009, St Eunan’s won their third title in a row. Those were the days when the Letterkenny club were the kingpins. No doubt the Gaelic Life pundits probably predicted that 2010 would deliver the same winner. However, for ten years, the title has changed hands every year. Glenswilly and St Eunan’s were the only two teams to have ever had the chance to defend their titles. Neither achieved the feat.
Now Gaoth Dobhair have their opportunity.
For Eamon McGee the proposition is a very serious one.
“It is rare for a team that had very little success to be going in to try to win back to back titles.
“It is rare because you have so many strong teams there, like Kilcar, St Eunan’s and Glenties.
“There is a definite buzz in the club. It is definitely building up. The lads are a bit more focused. They are focused on the job.
“There is the distraction of the side-show of the county final build up. That can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing.”
McGee explained that such is the diversity of the squad, different players will deal with the game in different ways.
“There are the younger boys, and there are the older boys.
“There are two different preparations.
“Last year, it probably didn’t affect them that much, but it might do this time. The older lads, like Kevin, Neil and myself, we don’t worry about it. We can just worry about the tactics side of things.”
The McGees and Cassidy have been in plenty of big games, enough to know how to deal with nerves, and what to enjoy and what to ignore.
Their opponents this weekend are Naomh Conaill, whom Gaoth Dobhair beat in last year’s final. Naomh Conaill have played in three of the last four deciders. Their only win was in 2015.
“Glenties have been there before.
“They will be totally different this year. Looking at how they are playing, they are far better this year.
“They have been a wee bit on the defensive side in the past. But they can open up now. They can put on a high press, and they have target men. They have added more forward options.
“And if they want to get defensive they can drop back.
“They are a team who will also be happy that the likes of Gaoth Dobhair and Kilcar were talked about. They are just focused on taking the rug out from under Gaoth Dobhair.”
And in order to stop them from doing that, Gaoth Dobhair will focus on their tactics, and game plans.
McGee said that they do have a plan for Glenties, at the end of the day, the winning of the game comes down to hunger.
“You have to go back to the age-old thing, heart and desire. That’s what it will all come down to.
“Any team that goes out without a structure or a game plan is not going to compete for championships. It is a massive part of the modern game. You have to be prepared. Football is no longer about just going out and putting the ball over the bar.
“If you look at the four teams in the semi-finals, They were the four best prepared teams.”
McGee, as one of the older players on the squad can no longer rely on his pace, and man marking skills to get by in the game.
Just like Kevin Cassidy is now playing as a target man, who can win ball and get the goals, so too has McGee had to adapt his game to allow him to compete at this level.
He is a leader on the field.
“My county career was built on breaking things down. It is easier to destroy than create. But now I try to be the link man. Sometimes I will go to full forward, sometimes I will play centre half, and then other times I will play link. I am enjoying playing my football.”
He’ll enjoy it even more if they can achieve that rare accolade of back to back titles, the first in a decade.