After just 34 seconds, the new roles became apparent.
Gaoth Dobhair, a week on from blasting 8-13 past Bundoran in a quarter-final, had to back up the talk.
Sean MacCumhaills, the surprise semi-finalists, stood between them and a place in the Donegal SFC final.
The first attack saw Gaoth Dobhair make a telling incision.
Kevin Cassidy’s arrow found Eamon McGee, who off-loaded for Eamonn Collum to clip the game’s first point. Early in the second half, McGee’s clever pass set Naoise Ó Baoill in motion for a third Gaoth Dobhair goal – and on the way to a 13-point win.
Back in 2006, when Gaoth Dobhair were last kings, McGee and Cassidy were enforcers in a mean rearguard.
“Now, I’m up front causing a bit of bother, making a nuisance of myself,” McGee says.
“We identified that we needed good decision makers up there. Me and Kevin aren’t going to score five or six points a game or bang in 1-5. It’s about getting ball winners and getting the ball to the right people. We’re not blessed with a Michael Murphy or Patrick McBrearty. We’re top heavy with defenders so I’m happy to spend my last few years up there.”
Living in Letterkenny, McGee has little choice but to hear the noise these days.
Gaoth Dobhair, in spite of a 12-year wait to win the Donegal SFC, have been the red hot favourites from an early stage of this year.
McGee has lived through enough barren winters in Gaoth Dobhair to know better.
Yesterday’s win has them back in a first final since ’06 – when Stephen Cassidy’s goal proved the difference against St Eunan’s.
In 13 days’ time, they face Naomh Conaill in the 2018 decider – desperate to return Dr Maguire to Magheragallon for a 15th time.
“A lot of people are talking about us,” McGee says.
“But in 2016, everyone was talking about Kilcar and Glenswilly caught them on the hop. We don’t want to be that team.
“There is a lot of talk now about Gaoth Dobhair. I hear people saying they’ve had money on Gaoth Dobhair and they got great odds. That’s nonsense that happens outside the circle.
“Inside it, it’s about us taking on the information that Michael (Boyle) and Mervyn (O’Donnell) are putting out there. It’s irrelevant to what’s going on.
“We have two weeks to focus now.
“Hopefully the older lads can chat sense and tell them that there is nothing won yet.
“Those two teams, Bundoran and MacCumhaills, are coming teams and have a lot of good work done. Glenties will be a totally different proposition and these games count for nothing unless we beat Glenties in the final. There was pressure on us to see what we could do. We got caught by MacCumhaills before so we had work to do to make sure that didn’t happen.”
McGee says his brother, Neil, and Cassidy, remain the key voices in a dressing room that has been lifted by the emergence of the parish’s latest crop – many of whom won an Ulster U21 title early this year.
He says: “If ‘Cass’ and Neil can influence it and stay positive, keep the feet on the ground and tell them that all that matters is what happens at training and in the meetings, the boys will listen. They’re the driving forces.”
McGee says Gaoth Dobhair were cut deep by last year’s semi-final loss against Naomh Conaill, when they blew a six-point lead and were left in agony.
Now, Naomh Conaill are the challenge again.
McGee says: “We learned a big lesson last year, but this is the litmus test now to see if we have learned enough.
“It was disappointing to lose that semi-final, but we gave it everything. There is a certain peace with that in that you can put the head on the pillow and say we gave it everything. You couldn’t ask that team to go straight to a final and win it. But that team is a year wiser now; they’re fitter, more mature and more developed. We’ll see if they’ve developed enough to take down Glenties.”
Gaoth Dobhair have many obvious strength and few glaring deficiencies. The absence of a noted scoring forward is compensated that several are capable of stepping up to the plate. Dáire Ó Baoill bagged two goals against Bundoran; Eamonn Collum hit 1-5 against MacCumhaills; Odhrán Mac Niallais’ left boot remains a weapon of popular choice; and the likes of Cian Mulligan, Michael Carroll and Naoise Ó Baoill have potent capabilities,
“It’s a good thing to have that no-one can concentrate on just one player,” McGee says.
“Look at Dublin – they’re dominant because they have 1-25 vying for spots. We have big Dan (McBride), Peter (McGee) all pushing for places. It’s very hard for opponents to shut us down. If they man-mark Odhrán, Cian might pop up. Man-mark Cian and Odhrán, then someone like Niall, Dáire or (Kieran) Gillespie might pop up.
“Martin Regan has been at a lot of our games and if anyone can find a way to shut us down it’ll be Glenties.”Tags: