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Eamonn McGee: I owe my career to McIver

By John Campbell

This Saturday in the Ulster Championship semi-final, Donegal defender Eamonn McGee will be doing his utmost to heap agony on the man he credits with helping to fashion his own hugely successful career.

It was during his stint as Donegal boss - which ended in 2008 -that current Derry manager McIver kept faith with McGee when the player found himself swimming against the tide.

McIver masterminded an Allianz League title for Donegal during his term in charge and oversaw the progress of a number of players who are still in the squad such as Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye, Karl Lacey and Colm McFadden.

McGee admits he will always be grateful to McIver for retaining faith in him.

"Brian brought me back after I had been dropped twice and probably could have dropped me another few times," reflected McGee. "Only for him sticking with me and believing in me, then I wouldn't be speaking to journalists now. I would be going to the next game as a spectator."

McIver's passion, enthusiasm and utter dedication to the Donegal cause were all ultimately transmitted the players.

"You just wanted to play for him and you respected him. That respect for him is still within the squad," insisted McGee.

"All you have to do is look at the reaction when Brian was sent packing by a few delegates in Donegal. A lot of the players were really, really upset.

"There was a club delegate of mine and a St Eunan's official involved. Myself and Rory Kavanagh were just totally disgusted, as was Kevin Cassidy. That just shows you the respect Brian was held in."

On Saturday, though, McIver will be doing his best to plot Donegal's downfall in what he sees as a defining match for his side but McGee is equally committed to seeing Donegal reach another Ulster final.

"Brian has been around for long enough and he knows the craic. He knows that he will have to try something. Even if he doesn't try something, Derry were in the league final last year and they went through the league unbeaten," pointed out McGee.

"I think a lot of people are being disrespectful to Derry. We have to realise that they are a top team. He might try something, but he doesn't necessarily have to."

When Donegal overcame Armagh earlier this month, it was viewed as a major step forward by the team in terms of retaining their Ulster title particularly as the Orchard County have so often been their bogey team in the past.

"We suffered enough over the last decade or so to Armagh. We just could never get over them. It was that kind of thing that made us have notions of ourselves, the fact that we were getting a wee bit closer to Armagh all the time," explained McGee.

"But we didn't take any extra satisfaction from beating Armagh. The job was done and we were satisfied that stuff we had worked on had worked out to a good degree.

"I know you would be thinking, 'ah, he has to say this', but we also had to look at where we could improve from that game and there was indeed a lot of stuff there that we could improve upon."

Under Rory Gallagher, Donegal have become even more attack-conscious, their ability to break from defence at lightning pace the stand-out element of their performances against Tyrone and Armagh to date in the Ulster Championship.

McGee, a rugged, no-nonsense defender who has managed to get the better of the country's elite forwards during Donegal's surge to prominence, believes that Derry will pose big questions to his team on Saturday.

"We enjoy our football. We loved our football with Jim (McGuinness) and we are enjoying it more with Rory. It's a different kind of approach to it. It's probably the approach that was needed with the age profile of a lot of players in the squad and it has paid dividends," stated McGee.

"Derry have already got over Down and that win will have given them confidence. But we will wait to the end of the season to see if we have the right or the wrong approach. We are happy enough with the Armagh game and what we can take from that going into this semi-final."

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