By Michael McMullan
PAUL Cassidy felt there was something special brewing in the county from the first time he set eyes on Rory Gallagher.
Cassidy captained Bellaghy minors to Ulster glory in January 2019 and was posing with photos with fans after winning an Ulster senior medal on his first ever appearance at Clones on Sunday.
“Definitely,” was the Tones’ man’s instant answer when asked if he felt getting his hands on the Anglo Celt Cup was a possibility.
“As you long you put the work in and get that team together,” said Cassidy, who has made 22 consecutive appearances since making his debut at home to Longford in the League, in the first game after the Covid lockdown.
“Rory is a huge factor in that and we just got over the line in the end,” he added of Sunday’s win.
But what moment made him believe an Ulster was within their reach?
“I’d say it was the first time I was there with Gallagher…I just knew something was going to happen in a year or two.
“Last year against Donegal, we nearly got over the line. We learned from that and we were far better this year.”
The secret, in his view, is the repetition at training and the pieces of the puzzle would appear over time.
Cassidy spoke of the “crazy” level of conditioning to get an engine to last the pace when the white championship heat was at its hottest.
“Peter Hughes has got us to that top, top level,” he said of Gallagher’s new Strength and Conditioning Coach brought in during the Covid lockdown.
“In extra time, we were still fresh and we kept on going,” added Cassidy, who also explained Derry were able to keep their composure in a tactical encounter where every inch counted.
“We just keep the heads and keep the ball. They (Donegal) were going to be looking for turnovers, we had to make sure of the points at the other end. With the Tyrone and Monaghan games, we are sort of used to it now with the crowds.”
Cassidy, one of the newcomers to the inter-county scene feels Sunday’s win will be “unbelievable” for the development of football – and the buzz attached to – in the county.
“We now know there is a bigger prize, an All-Ireland and that’ll push us on even further,” he said. “He (Rory) fully believes it and we fully believe it too.”