Back to the future with Four Masters in Donegal Town for Martin Cassidy

FEATURE WITH FOUR MASTERS KEEPER

Back to the future with Four Masters in Donegal Town for Martin Cassidy

Martin Cassidy in action for Four Masters against Naomh Brid Pic: Michael O'Donnell

As if to think that the life of a goalkeeper is not complex enough, try growing up on the same road as Paul 'Papa' Durcan and still being able to make a huge contribution to Four Masters and Cavan Gaels.
For Martin Cassidy, the wheel has come full circle again as he is now back living in Donegal Town and is the holder of the No 1 jersey.
Cassidy and Durcan were schoolboy friends. Cassidy is a year younger than the All-Ireland winner, and it helped that Durcan played outfield for some of the underage teams, which allowed Cassidy to take the keeper's jersey. There were plenty of success at those age groups from U-12 upwards with other talents like Barry Dunnion, Karl Lacey and Michael 'Doc' Doherty in the panel.
But when it came to senior level Paul Durcan was back between the posts and Martin Cassidy had to live on a diet of reserve football.
Even at second level when he went to Sligo IT, he was still in the shadow of Paul Durcan, winning a Sigerson title in 2005. He had also picked up a Donegal club senior championship medal with Four Masters in 2003 as understudy to Durcan.
Cassidy spent most of his second level at the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town but went to St Mel's of Longford for his Leaving Certificate year. He says he played a few league games with St Mel's but football was secondary that year and St Mel's already had a good goalkeeper.
Ironically enough, in his 18th year, his last year as a minor when Durcan was overage, Cassidy played his football outfield.
"I played outfield for my own age group. In 2002, we won the Co minor against Killybegs in the final. Myself, (Karl) Lacey and Michael Doherty would have been playing. I was playing midfield. That was one of my last appearances outfield; I would have played a couple of games at U-21 level," says Cassidy, who has great recall on his career to date.
And does he wonder what difference his career would have taken if 'Papa' Durcan had not been around at the same time?
"It has definitely been said to me a few times. If John Durcan had not moved to the town, I'd have had a better run with Four Masters," he quipped.
And maybe not just with Four Masters. He could he have featured at all levels at county football, such were his talents.
"I played Co minor back in 2002 but didn't make the panel for the U-21s."
There was a window with the club when the Four Masters management decided to use Paul Durcan as a full-forward one year in the championship which gave Cassidy the No 1 jersey for a season.
"That was maybe 2011. He was out full-forward for the year and doing a bit of damage. I was in goal that year. But mostly I was playing reserve (championship). I would have played plenty of senior league when Papa was on county duty.
"But once championship came around, he was back in. That was the only year really. There was one or two years when he was injured and I got to play a few championship games,"
But despite that the two remained friends and were there to back each other up.
When Martin joined An Garda Siochana and was posted to Cavan, another door opened to take him on a fresh challenge.
"I went to Cavan in 2012 and I joined Cavan Gaels. It was actually Mickey Graham, the Cavan manager now, who was managing them in 2012. His wife was a guard in Cavan as well, so I knew him well. He had approached me before as their first choice goalkeeper went to Australia for the year.
"I had said to him at the time that I was happy enough to travel up and down to home and play for Masters. I was coming off the year that Papa was playing outfield and I thought it might have continued the same way.
"But Joe Lacey was manager that year and he kinda said to me at the start of the year that he was thinking of abandoning the idea of playing him (Papa) outfield and it coincided with the approach. So it kinda made sense and I transferred. You weren't travelling up and down the road at night."
While there would be success with Cavan Gaels, it did not come at first with a few setbacks.
"No we were put out in the quarter-final in 2012 and we were beat in the Co final in 2013, Ballinagh, from just outside Cavan beat us. It was a big shock at the time, the equivalent of one of the big dogs in Donegal getting overturned by a smaller club.
"We won it in 2014 with Peter Canavan as manager. We got a good run going and a lot of boys thought it might be their last year at it. There were a lot of boys in their mid-30s."
Martin and Cavan Gaels lost out in 2015 and 2016 but came again in 2017. "I was on the bench in 2017. I was injured earlier in the year and didn't get my slot back. The fella that came in played well pretty much all year. That's the thing about playing in goal; you are almost relying on the man to make a mistake to get back in."
Then the wheel came full circle with a return to work and play in Donegal for Martin Cassidy.
"I was still travelling up to play with Cavan as they made the Ulster Club final that year. So we were playing Slaughtneil in that final in November. After that I was back working in Milford so I decided to transfer back."
By that stage Paul Durcan had moved on from Four Masters as well, going on his own journey, winning an All-Ireland club title with Ballyboden St Enda's and then spending a few years in the Middle East.
"Ryan Haughey had been in goal for Four Masters for a year or two and he headed off to London, so I slotted in again," says Cassidy.
Asked about the role of the goalkeeper and how he has handled it over the years, he feels he has learned a lot.
"I would say in the early days I would maybe have done a lot of silly things. Maybe you don't react that well to making mistakes, but I suppose as you go on, you get a little more mature," says Martin, who says that any coaching he does now with young lads, he would have good advice for them.
"I would be telling them to get on with it, when you make a mistake, just get on with it. I would have definitely have been guilty of that. You might have booted a post or something like that. You would have done a lot of silly things, I'm sure the forward looking at you would think this boy has the head lost, we will go at him again," he said, adding that he would like to take up coaching.
"Yeah, goalkeeping coaching is something I would enjoy getting involved in," says Cassidy, who has played some soccer with Drumbar United and also enjoys golf.

STRONG POINTS
Asked what would he regard as his strong points as a goalkeeper, he is clear.
"Myself, I always felt my strong point was shot stopping. I would say even positioning, I would have found myself watching videos of coaches showing you positioning. I would feel it is something that is overlooked," said Martin, who says he sees it watching county teams where there is a phase of having players comfortable playing outfield playing in goal, from a kicking point of view. "You can see in situations where there is one-on-ones, that their positioning is off and they wouldn't be making themselves as big as they could. Sometimes being in the right position forces a man to fist the ball over or not take on the shot on because you have made yourself big or got yourself in the right spot."

BEST TEAM PLAYED AGAINST
Asked to name the best team he played with and against, again he was clear.
Michael Boyle was always one of the best. I could relate to him that he was also understudy to Durcan. You could hear him from the other side of the field.
In defence I would have the two McGees, Neil and Eamon. I would have played against them at underage all the way up. They were two of the toughest. Another man I came up against was David Conwell of Killybegs. We always had battles with Killybegs.
I would have Chrissy McKaigue of Slaughneil. I played against him twice and he was one of those boys who could just run the show. To complete the defence I would have Frank McGlynn and one of the new kids on the block Peadar Mogan.
At midfield well Neil Gallagher and Michael Langan would be the two I would pick. I have played against them since I came back and it was hard to keep the ball away from them.
Up front I would have the St Michael's pair Christy Toye and Colm McFadden. I met them a lot at underage. Odhrán Mac Niallais, I played against him for the first time this year in the championship and the game is just too easy for him. Michael Murphy would have to be in there. And then along with him, my last game in 2012 for Four Masters, I came up against Paddy McBrearty and he scored 3-3 against me that day. The other one I would say is Jamie Brennan.

PLAYED WITH
Paul Durcan, he just has to be on the team.
I'd have Damien Cassidy and Don Monaghan from my earlier days with Four Masters and I'd have Keith Higgins from Mayo from my Sligo IT days.
Barry Dunnion and Karl Lacey would be my two wing backs and at centre-back I'd have Eamon 'Chesty' Reilly, a fella I played with in Cavan for a few years. He was a centre-back and as good a captain as you can get.
At midfield I'd have Shane Carr and Barry Monaghan. Any time I was playing with them, that's where the two of them would mostly be.
Up front I would have Christy Toye in this team as well from my Sligo IT team. I would him at centre-forward. The wing forwards, I would give Kevin McBrearty a shout from the modern day team and another fella from Cavan, Niall Murray, as the other half-forward. Inside I would have Mickey Doc (Doherty) in one corner and Seanie Johnston from Cavan Gaels in the other and at full-forward another player from Sligo IT days, Andy Moran.
"If you got ball into that full-forward line, they would do damage," says Martin.

BEST TEAM PLAYED AGAINST
Michael Boyle
Eamon McGee Neil McGee David Conwell
Frank McGlynn Chrissy McKaigue Peadar Mogan
Neil Gallagher Michael Langan
Odhrán Mac Niallais Christy Toye Colm McFadden
Patrick McBrearty Michael Murphy Jamie Brennan

BEST TEAM PLAYED WITH
Paul Durcan
Damien Cassidy Don Monaghan Keith Higgins
Barry Dunnion Eamon Reilly Karl Lacey
Barry Monaghan Shane Carr
Kevin McBrearty Christy Toye Niall Murray
Michael Doherty Andy Moran Seanie Johnston

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