McFeely Group Derry Intermediate Championship Football Final
John Joe Cleary’s whistle won’t only be announcing a new home for the Sheridan, Bateson and Lee Cup on Sunday, it will also be calling time on one of Claudy’s finest.
Marty Donaghy is the leader of his team, a survivor of the Mitchel’s 2005 Championship winning side, and despite his 37 years, continuing to produce some of the best football of a glittering career
‘Nugget’ has been producing ‘gold’ in a blue shirt for more than 20 years now and has been the guiding light as the Mitchel’s seek an unprecedented double, revelling in the extra responsibility manager, Emmett McKeever, placed on his shoulders when appointed in pre-season.
“If you asked some of the boys they mightn’t say it’s me keeping them sensible, in fact it’s usually the other way about!” laughs the former Derry county man when quizzed on his senior status within the Mitchel’s dressing room
“Seriously though, this year I’ve enjoyed the added responsibility and maybe that’s led to it meaning a bit more to me. I’ve been down a few of those roads and can maybe help some of the younger players.
“I’ve loved this year and will be disappointed not to be playing next year but the body is saying ‘No!’”
It would be fitting for a player of Donaghy’s immense talent to bow out on the end of a league and championship double with a club he’s served with such distinction but Donaghy knows the championship is an unforgiving arena for happy endings.
“This will be the last one I’d imagine and winning it would be perfect way to finish but championship medals are never easy won, you get nothing for free,” explains Donaghy.
“We won it back in 2005 and I don’t think I ever fully appreciated it back then just because I was young so it would mean everything to go out with a second winners’ medal but it’s going to be tough.
“Sunday can’t come quick enough though. I think more people outside the club are making a big deal from he fact it’s Foreglen than we are. We always thought the game might come and it will be a good final but, for us, it didn’t matter who we would meet in a final, you want to win just the same. We won’t be preparing any differently.”
Donaghy’s influence has been a critical factor for a relatively young Mitchel’s but he believes much of the credit must be handed to the management team of Emmet McKeever and Peter McDermott.
“We had Emmet coming in as a new manager and we were trying to get a feel for him and he was trying to get a feel for us because he brought new ideas. We wanted to get straight back up to the senior league, aye, but we knew it was going to be tough given the standard of the teams in or around that top five or six in Division 1B.
“We beat Kilrea on the first day and everything took off from there. We went on a long unbeaten run and it all ended up working well thankfully.”
Staring down the barrel of defeat twice against Steelstown in their opening tie, Donaghy admits he thought he’d played his last championship game and credits the tough training regime of McKeever and McDermott for pulling the Mitchel’s out of the mire.
“The Steelstown game will stand to us. If I’m honest I thought we were gone. I had the boots hung up!
”Seriously though, those two games gave us a wake up call we needed. We were trying a couple of new things for the championship and it took us those couple of games to get them mastered. Steelstown pushed us really hard but you need a bit of luck in the championship and we got it in that Steelstown game.
“In the first game, it was a pretty bad second half but also one of the most enjoyable this season. Seeing everybody knuckle down when things were going against us was brilliant. A couple of years ago we might have thought, ‘We’re never coming back from that’ but mentally we’ve been very strong this year and it’s carried us through a couple of scares.
”Emmett and Peter deserve credit for that and it’s funny, some of the training was very new to us and real ‘Navy Seal’ stuff but it prepares you mentally for anything on the pitch.
“If you can get through those training sessions, you can get through anything on the pitch and Emmett’s ideas have brought that through to us.”
‘Nugget’ admits there won’t be too many personnel surprises in either camp between too side whjo know each other well but he believe spectators could good game.
“No, I don’t think there are going to be too many surprises from either team. Foreglen know exactly who they are marking and we know exactly who we are marking. There are precious few secrets between the two teams.
“I think it’s going to be in or around midfield and the Foreglen half-back line where the game is going to be won. They have great runners coming from deep but, on the other hand, their runners are going to have to keep an eye on our forwards who are very talented.
“A lot of people are expecting a tight game but I think there’ll be a lot of counter-attacking and I can see a high scoring game. We’re hoping for a high scoring game because that’s the way we like to play.”