October 01, 1993
One of the two new selectors appointed by Meath team Manager Sean Boylan.
In his playing days with Navan O'Mahony's and Meath, Joe Cassells was a big gun who never failed to explode. Regularly igniting at devastatingly opportune moments during the biggest games at the biggest arenas in times past, the towering electrician will do so no more. The football tackle has been hung up every bit of it, apart from his tracksuit of course. Now that he's a Meath selector, nakedness wouldn't just suit at all, at all!
Joe Cassells decision to wave adieu to the good life of a high profile footballer had been received by the G.A.A. populace in Meath like a patient receives his appointment card for root canal work, resignation mixed with latent optimism for the long term future. Exit Joe Cassells, the once brilliant footballer, enter stage left, Cassells the selector with ideas unlimited.
At his prime, one of the most brilliant midfielders that the modern game has seen, for the next year at least big - hearted Joe will be wearing a different hat, albeit of a similar hue. Together with fellow Royal County old boy Mick Lyons, the O'Mahonys stalwart will be right alongside if not behind Sean Boylan's bid to steer Meath back to pole position in the Gaelic football stakes. Meath's three wise men are on their way!
Throwing in his lot with a heart and a half, Joe Cassells was never known as an impetuous being and in agreeing to become a selector with Meath he acknowledges that his decision was only arrived at after quite a bit of deliberation. "I was caught largely unawares about the new management set up and I honestly expected Pat Reynolds and Tony Brennan to go ahead and stay on for another while. There was a lot of speculation alright about the incoming management line up but as far as I was concerned there was no vacancy until I was approached by Sean Boylan. At that stage then I had to give it a lot of consideration. I realised the sort of commitment and dedication that would be needed and I'd have to say I was a small bit apprehensive".
Apprehensive or not, Royal County fans can be assured that their one-time favourite will give his new number one hundred per cent. Far from thinking of himself as merely just a replacement, a body to make up the numbers in Meath's think-tank machine, the Navan O'Mahonys clubman is keenly looking forward to meeting his new challenge head-on with gusto, enthusiasm and armed with a valuable wealth of experience
The new Meath selector is understandably hugely optimistic that the Royals can once again become kings of all they survey in the not too distant future. Optimism is inherent in the Meath fan's psyche after all but Joe cautions against the wearing of any rose coloured glasses. There's sleeves to be rolled up, socks to be pulled up and points to be clocked up on the scoreboard in matches that count before real life optimism can be translated into shiny silverware. "Success in Meath at underage level has created a lot of expectation and supporters are very confident that the Sam Maguire Cup will be recaptured in no time but it doesn't always work like that. Winning cups at underage level doesn't always manifest itself at Senior level so we're under no illusions that there's a lot of work to be put in by everyone concerned".
Obviously aware of the talent in the pipeline (and thankful for it), Joe is mindful of the fact that while the current state of play is suitably healthy in Meath, part of the incoming team management's job he feels may involve widening the net even further in search talent. "There's always the possibility that some players could be over looked as people concentrate on recent All-Ireland Minor and Under 21 successes. Some supporters tend to forget that after we were beaten in '85 by Laois in the Leinster Championship players like Liam Harnan, Terry Ferguson, Brian Stafford and David Beggy came on to the scene. I've no doubt but that there's talent out there who haven't figured in county Minor, Under 21, Senior or Junior grades as yet".
It's purely a matter of conjecture as to whether or not the big Navan gael would have assumed the job of team selector with Meath had the two other members of the backroom team not been the said Boylan and Lyons. Acquaintances of messr. Cassells would tell you that all three have been soldiering together in the cause of Meath football since 1982 and know each other's temperament down to a tee. The trio have all the makings of being a supremely workable and compatible unit, each of them contributing vital elements of experience, intuition and expert judgement to what will hopefully be an award winning formula.
Married to Navan lady Louise and proud father of William, Seamus, Stephen, Joanna, Fiona and Tracey, Cassells the selector assumes his new role after a glistening football career with club and county that installed him as one of the most respected and at the end of the day one of the most medal-laden players ever to have featured on the Meath G.A.A. scene. Twenty year on from his first major medal winning exploit with the local O'Mahony's, the affable electrician with the cool, calm exterior boasts enough experience as a selector at club level to be the perfect foil for the Dunboyne-based supreme.
In the days at the O'Mahony's when the team captain was also a selector, Joe Cassells had more than just a hands on role in the rise and rise of the Navan football bastion as a class apart in Royal County G.A.A. circles over the course of the eighties. In fairness and with a minimum of objectivity, the Big Man enjoyed a running start to his career in the game at adult level, playing no small part as a nineteen year old in the O'Mahony's Senior Championship final victory over Ballivor in 1973. Operating out of the forty yards berth, Cassells shone like a beacon on the domestic club scene and as such it was hardly surprising that a year later, he was recruited on to the Senior County team by then team manager Mick O'Brien.
Under O'Brien the Senior county rookie was encourage to play a largely defensive role alongside Mick Ryan from the Skryne club. (Cassells and Ryan were interestingly midfield partners on the Leinster Minor winning Meath team of 1972). A debutant in the 1974 Leinster Championship semi final victory over Laois, Meath's new kid on the block would remain an integral figure on the high profile county campus for another seventeen consecutive seasons. Forever a joy to behold on the playing field, his innate determination, conviction will to win and ambition would serve to personify all that was best about the emerging Meath Seniors of the 1980's
A naturally athletic youngster with provincial medals to his credit at cross county level, his stamina and sheer perseverance were arguably the mainstays of his game. The kind of player who would revel, in his prime in the modern type of fast running, quick thinking game, Joe Cassells suffered a series of frustrating disappointments with Meath had his ambitions stymied on successive occasions by the 'ould enemy Dublin before the Royals engineered their watershed alias the Centenary Cup of 1984. Big Joe captained that winning team and his dreams along with those of like minded seasoned campaigners such as Lyons, Colm O'Rourke and McEntee were realised to the full three years later when the Sam Maguire Cup was scooped. Like all good fairy tales made into real life drama. Meath's Captain Courageous was once again Cassells. Fate had dealt him a worthy hand at long last.
The holder of a record eight Meath Senior Championship medals (the last of which was notched three seasons ago), the 39 year old gaelic games veteran is currently a selector with O'Mahony's so the county role shouldn't be all that unfamiliar. The double All-Ireland medallist isn't so sure about such an easy relocation of resources. "Following on from the success of the outgoing management trio, they'll be a hard act to follow. After all some people tend to forget that as a team they helped coach Meath teams to two All-Irelands, five Leinsters and two National league titles. The hurdles are getting higher every year, more competitive and the playing field is becoming more level every year. People's expectations and what you can achieve can often be very different. You must remember that it took Sean and the boys three or four years to get it right."
Remembering times gone by when it wasn't at all fashionable to be associated with Meath football, Joe credits Sean Boylan with the distinction of having brought in the necessary professional approaches and a great deal of self-belief'. He acknowledges the part played by the other managers he has worked under at county level too, men like the aforementioned O'Brien, Mattie Kerrigan and Des Ferguson. He plans to use this experience to good effect in the coming months as Sean Boylan's assistant but meanwhile as far the immediate future goes, the 1976 replacement All-Star will wait on the Meath County Board to ratify his appointment and that of his colleague Mick Lyons. Just like placing your trust in Joe's reading of the game, his mental resolve and his fetching ability in days of yore, the October ratification looks like being the proverbial banker. The kind of player that you'd like to have on your side in the event of internecine warfare breaking out among the elite G.A.A. counties around, Joe Cassells was once a footballer par excellence, a footballer with few peers. If he's half the selector as he.!
Written by the Hogan Stand Magazine
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