The passing of time hasn’t dulled the meaning of a joust with Tyrone for Donegal full-back Neil McGee.
The personnel of both sides has changed drastically over the years, but the sight of the Red Hand still rises McGee’s feelings.
There is a famous clip from their meeting in 2013 when former Tyrone forward Stephen O’Neill bounces off McGee and onto the turf after attempting a shoulder charge on the Donegal man.
The smirk from McGee, ball-in-hand, says it all.
“The edge is still there,” McGee said, four years on from that game.
“The edge is there – for them and us! It’s a healthy rivalry, a good rivalry.”
Donegal lost nine players over the winter, following a loss to Tyrone in last year’s Ulster final, including McGee’s brother, Eamon, but the new generation haven’t looked at all out of place.
McGee said: “It’s hard to keep the feet on the ground but we’ll do what we always do, keep our heads down and work very hard and take every game as it comes because this is a new team now and we have no right to go round with our chests out.
“It’s hard to gauge it particularly in Donegal because expectations get raised very quickly and high very quickly.
“We are building a new team and hopefully we are going the right direction.”
Rory Gallagher was quick to point out that he still expected Donegal to dine at the top table – and winning the Ulster Championship, which has eluded them by the narrowest of margins in the last two summers, is their big goal.
McGee said: “You can have confidence but you can’t have arrogance. When you keep the head down and train away and keep your feet on the ground, you can have that confidence but you can’t have any arrogance.
“We have never had any arrogance in Donegal anyway. That’s sort of character we have.”
At times, he pines for the more innocent days when he was a newcomer to the Donegal side, as he looks at club-mates like Kieran Gillespie, Michael Carroll and Cian Mulligan pushing on for inclusion.
He said: “They are young but once you see them zipping about pride sort of kicks in then and you want to keep up with them and enjoy it.”
Against Antrim last month, McGee was one of just four players, along with Michael Murphy, Paddy McGrath and Frank McGlynn, on the starting side who had started the 2012 All-Ireland final win over Mayo.
McGee said: “We have to show the young fellas the standards and they don’t know any different now. We have them standards set for them. They have all adapted very well to it.”Tags: