‘Something I’m forever grateful for’

SHANE McCabe looks back on some of his memories playing and watching football…

Name: Shane McCabe.

Teams played for: Belcoo O’Rahillys.

Current involvement:

I’m running the roads, watching my three sons and tempted with getting back involved with a small bit of coaching as the management is pretty stressful.

Which club game, that you played in, will you never forget and why?

I played in a lot of great club games but the most memorable was the league final for Belcoo against Teemore in October 2007. Belcoo never won a senior league or championship title and we were massive underdogs but we managed to put in a great performance against a fancied Teemore team with All-Star Barry Owen’s playing.

Myself and Barry had a few good battles over the years and this one was no different but we managed to get over the line for a historic win.

I played for Dungannon Swifts on the Saturday and there were more Belcoo men at Stangmore Park as I had said I wouldn’t play soccer on the Saturday but when I landed I was persuaded to play the game.

All I will say is thank the Lord we won the league final on the Sunday as I was scapegoat if we didn’t.

Which club game, that you watched, will you never forget and why?

I had a lot of good friends and a cousin who played for the very successful Enniskillen Gaels teams in the early 2000s and followed them in Ulster where they had some serious games and I recall a few serious battles in Clones.

Errigal Ciaran was one and Crossmaglen was another that they should have won but couldn’t manage to get across the line.

Friends like Ronan McCabe, Colm Bradley and Ryan McCluskey were massive players then and I always loved watching them play in the winter days in Clones with an electric atmosphere and blood and thunder games played right to the end.

Which county game, that you played in, will you never forget and why?

This will probably be the Ulster final in 2008. A game that was far from my finest but to even be involved in that journey and final is something I am forever grateful for. A packed house and Fermanagh coming back to draw and In my eyes one kick out from history.

As they say “if my aunt had xxx” and all that. That particular summer was crazy and that Ulster final week in particular was mad.

I was playing for Glentoran on a professional three-year contract and I had to plead a GAA case in east Belfast to be allowed to play for Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship. Unbeknownst to me, I would play a Europa League match on the Thursday and then start the Ulster final on the Sunday.

My feet didn’t touch the ground that particular week even with Sean Quinn (Quinn Insurance) sending word to my managers that I was allowed three days off to prepare for the two games.

I had been used as a impact sub in both quarter and semi-finals and then Malachy O’Rourke threw me in from the start in the final.

What a summer.

I was very lucky to be involved in the last two Ulster finals that Fermanagh were involved in, first as a player and then selector with Rory Gallagher and Ricey.

Which county game, that you watched, will you never forget and why?

This will be the famous Athletic Grounds game when my father was the manager and Grimley and Hollywood scored a few goals in the last five minutes to tag back an eight or nine-point lead to snatch victory.

I was in the dug-out for all games and even at that young age I fell out of love slightly with the game seeing the abuse my father took from some so called supporters after the match.

Like the man he was, he faced the music and took the flack as if he was on the pitch dropping the ball and giving away possession.

A young fresh faced Raymie Gallagher burst onto the scene that day as a minor and lit the game up.

A taste of what was to come.

The county board then asked my father to reapply for the job he was in.

He had done a fantastic job in bringing Fermanagh to Division Two playing great football. He reneged and they moved on with another manager.

What was the funniest thing you ever saw in a game?

I recall one game when I was working as a labourer to plasters in the summer and I was maybe 16 or just 17. It was a Friday and payday and we would finish early if it was a decent day.

This particular day a young fresh faced lad was working with us and we stopped for lunch and a few refreshments at 3pm. Stayed for a few hours and up pops the player and says “I have to go lads I have a game.” I looked at the main plasterer and fellow club man saying there is no way he can be serious as he must have eight refreshments.

Anyway there was no talking to him and I wasn’t missing this junior match so we headed up to the pitch and there is said player in goals roaring and shouting like a prime John O’Leary, running up taking free kicks, penalties side line balls, never laughed as much in my life. Plus he never kicked one over the bar.

What was the strangest thing you ever saw in a game?

Jeepers, I don’t know if above story can be beaten, but I do recall being in Clones and seeing young McCartan’s boot being kicked up and down the pitch.

I also saw a particular player (definitely not me) get three yellow cards before he was sent off.

What was the most memorable performance from a player in a game that you watched?

I watched a lot of county games and wee Peter Canavan would have given me ample memorable moments.

The same with Maurice Fitzgerald. Those lads could put it on a sixpence. The best live performance I witnessed would have been Joyce for Galway in the 2001 All-Ireland final when he scored 10 points.

I’m nearly sure five of his left and five of his right. What a player.

What was the most memorable performance from a player in a game that you played?

He keeps reminding me but Rory Gallagher scored 3-9 and I still think it’s a record in the Ulster Championship. He couldn’t run much but by jeepers he could score.

What did you love about the games you played in?

They were great battles and majority of the time I played it was you against your man and maybe a sweeper. Simple 1v1 battles and I loved the way it brought people together, the togetherness and changing room is something that is very hard to replace.

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