The last man to lead Steelstown to a Championship final is in an unique position to assess Sunday’s Derry intermediate Football Final.
Paddy Campbell was player-manager in 2010 when the Brian Ogs lost out to Paddy Henry’s injury time winner at Celtic Park after going into those added minutes one point to the good. Campbell subsequently went on to manage St. Malachy’s and was, this year, in charge of the Slaughtmanus side Castledawson defeated to reach the Owenbeg decider.
I know Paul (O’Hea) only came in during the year but I hope he keeps at it and takes them on for another two or three years to see if he can get them promoted.Paddy Campbell
He has seen both sides up close and personal and believes how Castledawson handle Steelstown’s pace will be the deciding factor.
“Steelstown have been very impressive,” explained the former Donegal player, “The energy and youth they have, as well as the pace they move at, makes them dangerous. There seems a massive hunger in the team at present. They move the ball at pace and move themselves at pace.
“Castledawson are a big, strong physical team. They probably wouldn’t have the speed and fluidity that Steelstown would but they have a lot of big, physical players that can win ball and they are capable of scoring from a variety of areas, including from their defenders. They have a lot of scoring power.
“It’s really 50/50 and a very difficult match to call. Castledawson have the experience of winning championships in recent years. They have been across that Championship line and still have a hunger for it. I have seen a few of their games and I’ve watched others on OakLeaf TV. They have some great players like Aidan McElhone.
“However, Castledawson can be exposed defensively. Steelstown are playing with a lot of young forwards and that will be a big question, ‘Can Castledawson’s defence hold out against the Steelstown forward line?”
Campbell, who has won the Donegal senior Championship with his native Glenties, remains a regular figure around Pairc Bhird where his sons play with the Brian Ogs underage teams.
“I’m delighted to see some of those Steelstown boys doing well. I was talking to one or two of them through the week. I really enjoyed my time at Castledawson but my heart will definitely be with Steelstown. I would see those boys regularly and know them very well and hope they win.”
And Campbell believes Paul O’Hea’s 2016 panel is better than the one he led to the 2010 decider.
“I have thought about it a few times and people talk about the refereeing but we lost the game,” he adds, “We had a good team of players but I think the team that’s there now is better. It’s a younger team, more agile, fitter.
“We had Stephen Cleary at that time and he was top class. They don’t have Stephen now and Aidan Cleary isn’t really playing. Darren Jackson has gone; Kevin Lindsay is not playing; neither is Tony Ling so they have lost a lot of players that could potentially still be playing and they have made it to the final. That says a lot.”
Current manager O’Hea was Campbell’s captain and he says he would like to see the former full-back stay in charge and lead Brian Ogs back to senior football.
“If there is any team in the Intermediate League that could go up and be a senior team more or less immediately, it is Steelstown. They have a conveyor belt of youth coming through. Their aim should be promotion, to be playing senior football regularly and be bringing Ballinderry and Slaugthneil down to the city.
“I’m not surprised at all (by O’Hea’s success). He managed the club’s under 21s for a year or two and is a great lad. Paul and the others that are helping him out, Aidan Cleary and Eamon Gibson, those three fellas have earned a lot of respect at the club.
“I know Paul only came in during the year but I hope he keeps at it and takes them on for another two or three years to see if he can get them promoted. Promotion is a massive thing.
“Winning the final on Sunday would be a great achievement but for the club and all the youth coming thorough, it would be more important to see all the best teams coming to the city and Steelstown putting it up to them. That’s the long term goal for the club.”