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All-Ireland Championship: ‘Veterans’ prove plenty of life in old dogs

By John Campbell

When Tyrone faced jibes earlier this year that they were an ageing side no longer capable of figuring in the hunt for major honours manager Mickey Harte was understandably less than impressed.

He vigorously contended that a player’s current form, attitude and commitment rather than age or length of service should determine whether he is selected or not. The argument has been lent substance as the race to the All-Ireland title enters the final furlong.

When Donegal stunned Kildare in that epic encounter at Croke Park on Saturday, their winning point was scored by 31-year-old Kevin Cassidy who has been part of the fabric of the side for a decade having performed at half-forward, half-back and midfield.

And the only goal of the match was pocketed by Christy Toye who has adorned the Donegal colours at minor and senior for the same period while another 31-year-old centre-half-forward Michael Hegarty was in the line-up having been outstanding against Derry in the Ulster final.

Several other Donegal players who may not quite be of the same vintage have nonetheless tasted heartbreak in the Ulster championship including the provincial decider loss to Armagh in 2006 and this has served to intensify their determination to go all the way this year in the hunt for ‘Sam’.

Rory Kavanagh, Karl Lacey, Eamon McGee, David Walsh, Neil McGee and Neil Gallagher have all been in the side for a number of years now and have played under several managers.

Jim McGuinness’s determination to show faith in them while at the same time offering emerging talents such as Patrick McBrearty and Mark McHugh to show what they can do is one of the reasons why there is such a potent blend within the side.

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