McGee hopes Gaoth Dobhair – or someone from Donegal – can make the next step

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HAVING STEPPED ASIDE from the inter-county scene in 2016, Eamon McGee never thought he’d hear ‘the roar’ again.

The Gaoth Dobhair clubman was referring to what he heard as Amhrán na bhFiann came tao an end at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada on Saturday afternoon as he stood with his brother Neil and selector Martin Coll either side of him.

McGee, at 34, has played in front of bigger crowds than the 5,100 that were in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday. But there was something special in the air.

“When we were listening to the National Anthem, I said to Martin Coll beside me that I thought the days of hearing that roar were over,” McGee said after the 2-13 to 1-12 defeat in the All-Ireland Club SFC against Corofin from Galway.

“You only hear it on the big days, and when I ran out and hear the roar, I thought ‘this is going to be good’. In fairness, they got behind us, and the people of Donegal rowed in behind us too and that was great.

“Gaoth Dobhair people were always going to do it because they are passionate about the club, but to see people from other clubs that are normally just giving you abuse to row in behind you was great.”

Corofin, the reigning Galway, Connacht and All-Ireland champions, showed their class to win by four points and although Gaoth Dobhair will certainly have their scars, they can only accept that after a triumphant year themselves they were beaten by the better team on the day.

They did, though, at no stage throw in the towel. Towed along by the effervescent Kevin Cassidy, they were in the match right till the end and with their impressive production line of talent, they might justifiably believe that although Saturday was the end of something, it might be the start of something too.

“That’s a credit to the younger boys that they just kept going and going,” McGee said of his teammates. “We just kept doing what we were supposed to do and the opportunities were there.

“I’d say when we sit back to watch the game, it will be very, very frustrating. But they were a very good team, and sometimes, you’ve just got to take it on the chin.

“One of the things that stood out in the stats in the lead up to the match was that they are a very clinical team. They’re not going to have lots and lots of attacks, but with the ones that they do, they’re going to make sure they finish. Our goal was to limit the shots, but it just didn’t work out. They were able to get frees, and a lot of them were frees. They got the goals, and they were just a very good outfit.”

Gaoth Dobhair can now sit back and remember what’s gone before. Their season, for a side who have struggled in recent seasons to even make the knock-out rounds of the Donegal SFC has meandered into a time of the year that others are already in pre-season. It won’t be long coming around again.

“In a few weeks, you’ll look back and think that there, but we have lost an All-Ireland semi-final and an opportunity to play on Paddy’s Day,” McGee added. “For the likes of Cass, Neil and myself, those chances aren’t going to come around too often.

“But that’s football and you’re not guaranteed anything. It was a great opportunity to be here. Hopefully the standard is set now for Gaoth Dobhair and Donegal to push on, and become heavyweights in Ulster, and hopefully some team will make that breakthrough to Paddy’s Day.”

MA in Journalism graduate from NUI Galway and BBS Marketing and NC in Online Marketing from LyIT, who has worked covering sport in Donegal since 2004. Part of Donegal Democrat who won McNamee awards in 2013 and 2015 for 'best provincial publication'. Reseacher for 'Jimmy's Winnin' Matches' documentary and Rory Kavanagh's autobiography 'Winning'

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