Evergreen Cassidy showing no sign of slowing down
By John Harrington
One of loudest cheers of the afternoon when Derrygonnelly beat Roslea in Sunday’s Fermanagh SFC Final came when Kevin Cassidy kicked a point to put Derrygonnelly two points ahead midway through the second-half.
It was a beautiful point – struck it without the outside of his left-boot from around 40 yards out and to the left of the posts – but the crowd weren’t just applauding the technical excellence of the score.
The decibels from the stand were an acknowledgement of just how big a local legend Cassidy is in the eyes of Derrgonnelly folk.
He’s 44-years-old now, but the club stalwart shows no sign of slowing down and was one of his team’s key players again as they secured a historic fifth county title in a row.
They won their very first back in 1995, and Cassidy was a key player then too as he scored a vital goal that helped secure victory over Lisnaskea.
Had you told him back then he’d still be winning county titles 24 years later, he wouldn’t have believed you.
“No, I wouldn't have dreamed of it, no,” Cassidy told GAA.ie “The more I think of it what you're trying to do is just inspire younger boys around you and maybe the older boys who are getting on a bit. Maybe they'll think they might have a few more years left and there's no point pulling the pin too early.
“You should play as long as you keep enjoying it, and that's the reason why I'm still playing, because I enjoy it and get a good buzz about getting on the field.
“The way the game has gone it's more and more demanding and players are getting more and more fitter and it's a higher standard each year.
“But as long as you still enjoy it, I'd recommend to boys to keep playing as long as they're enjoying their football.
“We were around the schools this morning with the Cup and it was just a great feeling, there was a nice wee buzz.”
Cassidy had the perfect excuse to hang up his boots back in 2015 when he ruptured a cruciate ligament.
It says a lot about his mentality though that at the age of 40 he viewed the injury as a temporary set-back rather than a career curtain-call.
“It was disappointing that year but the club were very good to me,” he said.
“We got the operation sorted out right away and I was able to do my rehab that year and was back fresh again the following year.
“I didn't know how it would hold up, but thankfully I've had very few injuries in my career and that was the only serious one I've had. I've been basically injury-free for the past number of years since thankfully
“It was only when I did my cruciate that I started doing extra bits in the winter months to stay in a bit of shape. I've started doing yoga the last couple of years as well and I feel like it has benefited me.
“All of these wee things help.”
For most of his career Cassidy has been one of the most lethal finishers on the Fermanagh club-scene, but as he’s gotten older he’s reinvented himself somewhat.
Now he sits in a deeper position in the Derrygonnelly attack, using all his wiles to pull the strings and create scoring opportunities for others.
“Ach, yeah, you just try to fit your way into the team whatever way you can,” he said.
“There's enough boys there to do different roles and the management had a plan this year.
“Last year I didn't get as many minutes as I would have liked and I worked hard over the winter and said to myself that I'd prove boys wrong.
“I've changed my game up and sometimes you have to do that to change with the times and the style of football we play.”
Cassidy regards himself as just one small cog in a very impressive Derrygonnelly machine.
To win five county titles in a row is an incredible achievement, and Cassidy believes it has been possible because everyone in the club, from top to bottom, has pulled together in the same direction.
“The players are very dedicated bunch and they're easy to manage because they're always looking after themselves and looking to better themselves,” he said.
“With each match they play they're always looking at ways to stretch their own games in areas they might see a weakness. There's groups of boys day going to the gym and doing whatever they have to do.
“We have a good stats team and we work hard on things that show up in the stats. When you look after all of those things then it all comes together into a successful team.
“We also have a good committee there in the club and it sort of runs from the top down. Without those sorts of structures in place off the field we wouldn't be as good on the field.
“In moments there on Sunday the crowd really got behind us and dragged us over the line too.
“We had a bit of a homecoming then in the town and people were standing out in the pouring rain waiting for us to get back to the town.
“It's a whole community and parish effort. We have a very good committee, good management, and good underage structures in the club as well as a very committed bunch of players, so it has all come together.”
Cassidy is already focused the next challenge on the horizon – playing Enniskillen in the Fermanagh League semi-final this weekend.
The plan for now is to hopefully do the domestic double and then have a good cut at the Ulster Club Championship.
And whenever the dust does eventually settle on the club’s 2019 season, he’s hopeful he’ll have another one to look forward to when 2020 swings around.
“I'll take each year as it comes,” said Cassidy.
“I won't look too far forward, but as long as I'm still able to contribute and the boys are willing to pick me and I'm able to keep up with the young boys, then I'll always give it a go.
“I'm sure I'll know myself when my time is up.”