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Young guns can fire Donegal kingpins to the top: Eamon Magee

 

Rock solid: veteran Eamon Magee will be a central cog in the Gaoth Dobhair defence against Corofin on Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon
Rock solid: veteran Eamon Magee will be a central cog in the Gaoth Dobhair defence against Corofin on Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon

By John Campbell

Sporting rewards have tended to come late in the career of teak-tough former Donegal defender Eamon Magee.

As a central rearguard cog when the All-Ireland title was collected for the second time in the county's history in 2012, Magee had already celebrated his 27th birthday.

And when skipper Michael Murphy took delivery of the Sam Maguire Cup on that occasion, Magee left Croke Park satisfied that his career honours haul had been completed.

Yet the passage of time has not only projected Magee into the national spotlight once more but has sharpened his appetite at a stage when he thought that he would have departed the competitive stage.

When he lines out with new Ulster champions Gaoth Dobhair in Saturday's All-Ireland Club Football Championship semi-final against reigning kingpins Corofin (Galway), Magee will be hoping to add the greatest club honour of all to the Donegal and Ulster championship medals be captured in a memorable 2018.

History may not be on his team's side when they go into action at Carrick-on-Shannon against a Corofin side that will be defending their All-Ireland crown and which will have taken considerable satisfaction from the six successive Galway championship titles they have garnered up until last year.

It's a track record that could be perceived as intimidating but Magee does not necessarily see things that way as he prepares for the biggest game of his lengthy career at club level.

"We knew that Ulster titles are not handed out easily and that's why we were geared up to work so hard against Scotstown in the final," states Magee.

"And it's the same in the All-Ireland arena. We're going in against a side with a phenomenal record within their own county, and indeed in their province, so we know it's going to be a very difficult assignment."

Manager Mervyn O'Donnell has welded together a team that encompasses youth and experience - a team that has ignited unimaginable fervour within west Donegal.

While acknowledging that his side will still be burdened by the grief which followed the tragic deaths of four young men from the area towards the end of last month, Magee offers a considerable helping of hope as sights are fixed on All-Ireland success.

"Look, it's the young bucks in the side who are driving us on," reveals Magee. "In my own case, the head gasket was gone in the last 10 minutes of the Ulster final, but I was just looking at the young boys and they were still running up and down the field fresh as daisies at that stage.

"If they can show that level of fitness on Saturday they cannot only make things awkward for Corofin but they can serve as an inspiration to the rest of us older hands.

"You can't but admire the energy that they are showing and into the bargain they are so level-headed. They don't panic but instead they are telling old hands like myself and Kevin Cassidy to calm down, would you believe."

Magee and 37-year-old Cassidy are among the more venerable warriors within a Gaoth Dobhair side which can also take inspiration from Magee's brother Neil, Gary McFadden, Odhran MacNiallais and Daniel McBride.

But it's the youthful brigade which incorporates skipper Niall Friel, Cian Mulligan, Michael Carroll, Naoise O'Boyle and Christopher McFadden that Magee sees as holding the key to victory.

"The young guys are just a breath of fresh air within the side," insists Magee. "They have no inhibitions, they play with their hearts on their sleeves."

22-year-old skipper Friel is adamant that while the young guns help to fire up the side, the more senior citizens have brought their experience into play in every game to date.

And he believes that their influence could be profound on Saturday.

"We can't wait to get into action in this semi-final," insists Friel. "We knew going in against Crossmaglen and Scotstown in the Ulster Club Championship that we were meeting quality sides, and this will certainly be the case again on Saturday. But we will be up for the challenge."

Belfast Telegraph

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