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Ulster joy is as good as Derrygonnelly's veteran duo always thought it would be

 

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Strong ambition: Dermot Feeley wants final delight

Strong ambition: Dermot Feeley wants final delight

Strong ambition: Dermot Feeley wants final delight

Between the two of them, they have 50 years of Gaelic football under their belts - yet only 60 minutes stands between them and an Ulster Club final.

Dermot 'Peggy' Feely and Kevin Cassidy of Derrygonnelly Harps have been playing football for their club since 1992 and 1993 respectively, and are surely among the eldest footballers still performing at senior club level.

Not only that, but the two 42-year-olds are acquitting themselves as well as ever, with Feely a dependable presence in goals and Cassidy a classy and elegant attacker.

The pair helped Derrygonnelly see off Armagh Harps on Saturday and seal the club's first win in the Ulster Club series at the sixth time of trying.

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Kevin Cassidy of Derrygonnelly Harps

Kevin Cassidy of Derrygonnelly Harps

Kevin Cassidy of Derrygonnelly Harps

The two won an Ulster Under-21 title with Fermanagh back in 1994 and now face Cavan Gaels on November 12 for a place in the Ulster Club final.

Both men were youngsters when the Harps won their first Fermanagh Club Championship back in 1995 with victory over Lisnaskea, and since then have acquired 12 Championships, two wives and five children.

But still their devotion to the Harps, now managed by their old friend from primary school and long-time team-mate Martin 'Archie' Greene, has never waned.

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Feely stated: "To be honest, it was always a thing in the back of your head that you won a Championship and you wanted to win a game in Ulster."

That arrived on Saturday night and felt as good as they ever imagined.

"Sometimes you don't feel we get the credit within Fermanagh for what we have done in the last number of years," he said.

"We just felt we needed to get that off our backs, and it did feel as good as we thought it might. It's a great feeling knowing you can do it in Ulster, and hopefully that is a stepping stone for younger lads and supporters coming through, that they can have the self-belief and take it on from there."

Feely is married to Lucia and they have three children: Luke (14), Kayla (six) and Molly (four).

"Only for (Lucia) being understanding, it wouldn't happen," said Feely.

"You are away on the Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and maybe more nights before that, and away every weekend.

"There hasn't been enough said about the wives and girlfriends, they put in just as much as the players too with what they have to give up, nights out, weddings. They deserve great credit and special mention, no doubt."

Cassidy is married to Cathy and has two children: Brandon (16) and Maisie (four).

He said: "There is always something in the calendar year that you are sacrificing. If it's driving to a wedding, not staying over, a family weekend away, there are always things missed."

Cassidy is an interesting case study in durability. Two years ago he missed out on a Championship medal after he ruptured his cruciate ligament. And despite having already turned 40, he knew he was always going to resume his playing career.

"I just felt at the time it was a stumble on the road, and I saw it as a challenge to get back to full fitness and to get back on the team," he said.

"After playing for so many years, I didn't want to finish that way. I felt I still had something to offer and I gave it a good go, got my full recovery and saw where it would take me. If it was good enough to get me back on the team then good, and if not, I would have pulled the pin.

"I felt I didn't want to go out on a bad note like that."

And there is the loyalty to their friend Greene, who they have known for almost 40 years.

"You like to give him a bit of extra support," said Cassidy.

"When you grow up together, you want to help them out off and on the field as best you can."

While Cassidy is not ruling out playing on - "The day I stop enjoying the football is the day I'll stop playing" - the end is approaching for Feely.

He said: "I think after that win the other night, I had said in years before that I was going and all, but this time I think I have to for the sake of the family.

"I think 25 years is a nice figure to end up on, and to be fair the body might not stick it any more. The body, the hamstring, the back... I think after this year it might be it."

Unless they win in Ulster of course, in which case all bets are off.

Other evergreen stars who kept on showing class

John ‘Shorty’ Treanor

Remembered for his classy goal for Burren in the 1986 All-Ireland Club final, the occasional Portadown soccer player was still turning it on in the Ulster Club campaign of 1999 against Enniskillen Gaels across two games when he was the classiest player on the pitch.

Oisín McConville

Still playing well into his 38th year as Crossmaglen Rangers won the last of their All-Ireland titles in 2012, there are many who would say McConville just kept on getting better with every passing year for Cross, marrying his vast experience in tight situations with his increased levels of fitness.

Enda Muldoon

Now 40-years-old, he took on Chrissy McKaigue in the Derry Championship quarter-final and got the better of the exchanges, dragging his man from wing to wing for kickouts. Showing no signs of hanging up the boots either.


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