Patience pays off as Ardboe's Michael Cassidy makes Tyrone senior team
IT'S taken him the best part of three years, but Michael Cassidy's perseverance and patience have paid off.
And when his chance to break into the Tyrone team finally arrived, he knew the importance of making it stick.
It was on an overcast afternoon in late March that the Ardboe man was handed his first NFL start, and he rose to the challenge magnificently with a towering performance against Galway at Healy Park.
Slotting in seamlessly at wing back, he took on the role with authority, raiding forward with energy and power, and picking off two superb points in the 3-15 to 1-14 victory. His impact made a statement of intent that couldn't be ignored.
Cassidy's selection for the Ulster SFC preliminary round clash with Derry was merely a formality, and having held on to his place and delivered another compelling display against Antrim, he's all set for his greatest challenge to date in this weekend's semi-final meeting with champions Donegal.
"I never got the chance to get on early on in the league, but when Mickey gave me the nod, I knew I had to go and grab the chance, because there's just so many players here ready to grab those places," said Cassidy.
"And when I got the nod, I wanted to make sure that I performed, and thankfully that day I did.
"But you just have to take each game as it comes, and you don't know if your place is going to be there the next day. You just have to keep working hard.
"And that Galway game, I knew I had to take my chance, because the next game after that league game was Championship, and I knew myself if I could go out and have a good day, perform, I had a chance, and thankfully I did that. Hopefully I can keep it going."
Cassidy was a member of the 2015 All-Ireland winning Tyrone U21 team.
While others made a more swift transition to the senior side, he has had to bide his time, but now, in his third season as a member of Mickey Harte's squad, he has arrived.
That talented U21 side has contributed generously to the development of a formidable group of plauers that is expected to challenge strongly for Sam Maguire again this season, also providing Harte with Padraig Hampsey, Cathal McShane, Kieran McGeary, Rory Brennan, Conor Meyler, Frank Burns, Mark Bradley, Lee Brennan and Ciaran McLaughlin.
"It's great to play with the likes of Petey Harte and Mattie Donnelly and these boys, its' a dream," the 24-year-old bar manager added.
"It's a privilege to get the jersey on this Tyrone team, because I have waited quite a while, and hopefully I'm going to keep it."
Cassidy's power, pace and ball-playing skills give him the perfect combination of attributes for Tyrone's style of play.
And he has a mature appreciation of the fact that a full 70 minutes is never guaranteed to those who start, with a legion of reinforcements ready to join the battle in a final push for the line.
"The bench is so strong, and it's critical to have them to come in and see out championship games."