McGee can spur Gaoth Dobhair to future success


GAOTH Dobhair full-back Neil McGee (32) is hoping history can repeat itself when he makes his third County Senior Championship final appearance on Sunday.
Half a life-time has passed since the then 16-year-old won his first Dr Maguire medal as Gaoth Dobhair defeated St Eunan’s 1-11 to 0-10 in the 2002 final. He was just out of his teens when he won a second title with his home parish, courtesy of a 1-5 to 0-6 win over St Eunan’s in 2006.
Neil, together with brothers Eamon and Peter, went on to win an All-Ireland title with Donegal in 2012 while he also played in the 2014 decider at Croke Park, losing out to Kerry.
Over the intervening years however Gaoth Dobhair failed to reach final of the Donegal Senior Championship competition – until now.
“I was sixteen at the time and marked Brendan Devenney in that final,” he smiles when asked about his memories of the 2002 final.
“I remember mum getting me up for school on the Monday morning after the final,” he added.
Fast forward four years and Gaoth Dobhair were lifting their 14th Donegal title in Ballybofey. St Eunan’s, again, were the opposition and Devenney, again, was the man Neil McGee was tasked with keeping tabs on.
“I thought it was wee buns. Here I was twenty years old with two county titles. I thought that we would be there every year but we’ve had a few barren years since,” he said.
“We struggled to even get as far as the semi final. We couldn’t put a finger on where it was going wrong but we’ve got our act together this past couple of years,” he added.
Corner back Christopher McFadden, Dan McBride, Kevin Cassidy and Eamon McGee were all part of the starting fifteen against ‘Eunan’s back in 2006 alongside Neil and he’s hoping that that experience will stand to them on Sunday.
“Things weren’t going right for us. We were trying but we just couldn’t get it together until Mervyn came in last year with his own ways. They may not be the most conventional but they’ll really brought us together.
“Michael Boyle has come in this year and he’s added a bit of organisation to it. He’s been top class too since he came in. He’s made a big difference,” McGee admitted.
The teak tough defender has also played more than one hundred times for Donegal throughout his career.
“When you’re putting so much into the county the club is losing out. It’s hard to get the balance right,” he sighed.
That said, McGee is quick to compliment the County Board with the way the 2018 fixtures programme has been run off.
“The County Board have to be commended this year. Clubs have been playing away without their county players and when we came back there was no big issue. We just got on with it.
“The Championship has seen us play matches week after week and I’ve loved it. As you get older you get more anxious coming up to games and with two weeks before the final it seemed a long way off. I would rather bang them out, week after week,” he said.
A persistent back problem curtailed McGee’s involvement with Donegal earlier in the year but he’s now back to full fitness.
“The body is good. I had a few injuries early on in the year with the county and I couldn’t get a proper run at things. The last few months have been good and I’m really enjoying being back at the club,” he said.
“I’m 32 now and there mightn’t be too many more finals. Hopefully I can get these boys over the line on Sunday and it can spur them on for years to come.
“We have to be greedy because some of these boys could easily drift away if they lose the final. Hopefully, it will be the catalyst for the start of many successful years at the club because the talent is there. On the day though, it’s a massive task to get over the line and you need that bit of luck too,” he said.
Gaoth Dobhair are the current Donegal and Ulster U21 champions and it is those younger players who are back-boning the club’s assault on this year’s Championship.
“We’ve lost a generation of players. Half of Gaoth Dobhair must be in Australia at this stage. The likes of Jamie Reynolds, who is in Australia, Danny Curran – who was a big player for us – and Ciaran Ferry, who has transferred to a club in Dublin where he now works, have all soldiered with us over the years and we’ll be trying to win on Sunday as much for them too,” he said.
Two men he has soldiered with throughout his career are his two brothers Eamon and Peter.
“It’s always nice to have your two brothers alongside you on the pitch and it would be nice to climb the steps with them on Sunday evening,” he added.
Neil works with KN Group, a job that takes him all around the county laying down cables and putting up poles.
“There’s great support for us across the parish. They really get behind you in Gaoth Dobhair and hopefully we can get the job done on Sunday,” he said.
Gaoth Dobhair have already beaten Naomh Conaill in Championship football this year but McGee feels that will count for nothing on Sunday.
“There’s very little between the top few sides in Donegal. There’s been talk that we owe Naomh Conaill one (they knocked Gaoth Dobhair out of the 2017 Championship) but we owe it more to ourselves,” he said.
“We had a tough group but once we beat ‘Eunan’s it took a wee bit of the pressure off and then we had Glenties at home. There was a big, strong wind that day and no one likes to come to Magheragallon when it’s like that.
“Sunday will be different. We’ll have to be at our very best and if we are we shouldn’t be too far away,” he added.

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