BY CHRIS MCNULTY
JOE Gibbons has had a busy summer.
Tomorrow evening, the teak tough Gibbons goes into combat with Glenswilly again, with a third-ever senior final the carrot that dangles before them.
Gibbons is an ever-present in the Glenswilly team, but he had to miss the group game joust with Bundoran in June. It was with good reason, though.
The previous week, he wed Susanna (Temple) and the couple were on honeymoon in Las Vegas.
He’d played the first game in Kilcar ‘not with great ease’ the day after his wedding.
In Las Vegas, knowing when to hold and fold is an art form.
Glenswilly, too, have learned the hard way about the pitfalls of an ‘all-in’ call. Theirs is a characteristic that has been moulded by many missed chances over the years.
They live on the edge at times and have become maligned in certain quarters for doing so.
For Glenswilly, though, it’s about making the most of now. Gibbons wears his heart on the sleeve and you won’t see him shirk a challenge. It’s a trait that runs through his team. They’ve become masters almost at winning by whichever means is necessary.
“We’ve had to learn how to do it when a game is on the line, just by getting a hand on the ball, getting anything on it, putting the body on the line,” Gibbons says.
When it comes to the crunch in the Championship, you can’t pull out. If you’re willing to put the head on the line in the heat of it, you’re in with a chance.
“Over the years, we’ve been beaten in so many big games by a point or two. We’ve had too many hard luck stories. We just had enough of those defeats.
“If we’re touch and go with ten or fifteen minutes left I’d like to think that we have enough about us now to see it through. I don’t see why we wouldn’t have the bottle for it.
“It’s one day and one game at a time now – that’s the only way it can be. We just try not to let our guard down against anybody.”
Gibbons played in 2007 as Glenswilly, in only their second season in senior football, reached the Championship final, but lost to St Eunan’s, 0-12 to 1-3.
Two years ago, Glenswilly took the ultimate step as Gibbons and company defeated St Michael’s to take Dr Maguire back to Foxhall for the first time.
In the intervening years, Glenswilly had enough warning shots to know now not to count their money before the last card is drawn.
In 2009, Glenswilly were humbled by Ardara over two legs. Glenswilly imploded, Barry O’Hagan resigned as manager and John McGinley came aboard to help pale the water from the ship.
“We were flying and we were all in good shape going into that tie,” Gibbons says now ahead of another battle with Ardara.
“We had completely the wrong attitude going into the game. We went out just thinking that we’d beat them, that we just had to turn up. They annihilated us.
“Ardara will be a tough game for us. We know all about Ardara and what they’re about in the Championship.
“Ardara are a Championship team. They’ve Championship players all over the park: Brendan Boyle, Kenneth Doherty, Conor Classon, Gareth Concarr.”
Last year, Glenswilly entered as the defending champions and they were only stuttering along before Dungloe arrived to a quarter-final and sent them packing.
Gibbons says: “Last year we let the guard down against Dungloe.
“People say that hunger doesn’t matter in football, but for us that day the hunger wasn’t there. With that in mind, we’ll be wary of Ardara.
“Although they’re struggling in the League, it’ll be a massive test for us.”
Gary McDaid has returned to the Bainisteoir bib this term, with Johnny McGinley by his side.
Theirs is a dedicated management team that leaves no stones unturned. Preparation goes to the nth degree.
Gibbons says: “Gary and Johnny try to give every man a job and we all know what is being asked of us.
“When you pull on that Glen jersey you just try and give 100 per cent every time. That’s what it’s all about. You just hope that the 15 small jobs come together on match day.”
Now, here they are at the threshold again.
In 2007, they played the first ever floodlit game at MacCumhaill Park and defeated Dungloe to reach that first final.
Seasoned and hardened campaigners now, Glenswilly mean business again.
“It’s one game, one 60 minutes that’s make or break,” says Gibbons.
Just another roll of the dice.
The book looks at the experiences and achievement levels of Irish-born football migrants to Britain and further afield.