TWENTY years ago, Marty McDaid was among an emerging crop at Swilly Rovers that savoured glory in the Ulster Senior League.
Under Danny McConnell’s management, Swilly captured the 1999/00 USL crown with McDaid a squad member that won the Ramelton club’s only previous League title.
Now at the other end of the timeline, McDaid – who celebrated his 40th birthday only a couple of weeks – remains as important as ever to Swilly.
On Sunday, it looked as if a brace of goals sealed the Donegal League Division 2 League title for Swilly. Just as the clocked ticked down, Conor Friel, Raphoe Town’s young substitute, denied Swilly with the latest of equalisers.
“It was just like someone stabbing you,” McDaid said afterwards.
“We had the three points here and it was in the bag. We didn’t seem to be under too much pressure. We were against a very strong breeze there too. You just have to take the oil and move on.
“We had the League title until ten seconds before the end. To take that was a big blow.
“But we haven’t lost the game. We still got a point and we’ll roll into next week and hopefully we can clinch the title then.”
Swilly led twice, both times courtesy of McDaid, but Christy Bogle and Friel secured a point for Raphoe – Swilly’s closest challengers at the summit.
“It was a tight battle,” McDaid observed.
“We knew we’d be up against it in Raphoe. They’re a good footballing side.
“They try their best to play football. If you have a good pitch, you’d get the best out of both teams. Unfortunately the conditions and the pitch didn’t help, but the two teams battled well right to the end”
Swilly travel to Lagan Harps on Sunday, where they have another chance to seal the deal, while their last game the following Sunday takes them to Glenree United.
Swilly have dropped only six points all season. The blots on their copybook are the three draws – against Raphoe twice and Whitestrand United – and McDaid says Swilly are targeting an unbeaten League campaign.
He said: “A wee goal that we have is to finish the League season unbeaten. We’re away in two more games. Even if we got the win next week, we will still go onto the last game with the aim of winning that game too.”
Alongside fellow veteran Columba O’Donnell – the Ulster Senior League’s player of the season in 2003/04 – and others, McDaid has found a new lease of life in a season that has yielded 19 League goals.
He said: “I’ve had a good season. In previous seasons, I played a lot around the midfield, but this year they’ve decided to play me up top most of the year. I’m happy enough to get another couple of goals. I’ve enjoyed playing up there.”
Swilly withdrew from the Ulster Senior League last year. Having been founder members of the USL in the mid-90s, Swilly suffered a recent decline and opted to return to the Donegal League after some soul searching.
Kieran Boyle was installed as manager last summer and, aided by a big management team that has included the recent return of Gerry Crossan following his departure from Rathmullan Celtic, Swilly have begun to find their way again. A pointer to this was their pre-match team picture on Sunday, an image containing 21 players.
“It was a good move by the club to come back down to this level again,” McDaid said.
“We were trying in the Ulster Senior League to bring in young fellas from the town and we ended up getting punished. If you make a wee mistake, the Ulster Senior League teams will score against you right away.
“This League allowed us to start building. We have a few experienced boys there to help the young lads. It’s definitely building and progressing, but we need to keep that up now. We need to keep looking to move up.”Tags: