IF THE name of Danny McGowan didn’t ring a bell before last month’s Junior Football Final, it certainly did after it.
As the strapping left-footer swung over the first of his six points, neutral spectators were frantically flicking through their programmes to see who the imposing centre-forward was. An hour later and the Islandeady supporters were singing his praises as he picked up the coveted ‘Man of the Match’ award.
“It was some day,” the 21 years-old told The Mayo News. “It was just one of those games when everything seemed to go right for me. You get days like that. It was a fantastic day for Islandeady.”
That Junior title win was the light at the end of a tunnel that was dark for far too long for the talented young forward.
McGowan has been plagued with injuries for the last couple of years and got another scare in January when lining out for the Mayo U-21 Development squad.
“After missing last year I was keen to make a real go of things,“ he recalled. “But I got a knee ligament injury at the start of the year and I thought it was going to be another one of those seasons. Thankfully, I managed to get myself back and came into form for the final.
“People don’t realise the work you have to do when you’re injured,” he added. “You have to spend so much time in the gym and when you’re not in the gym, you’re on the physio table. It’s a long road back.”
However, the long trek back to full fitness reaped handsome dividends for a footballer who also moonlights as a DJ on the pub and club scene in Westport.
Four weeks on from their hard-fought triumph over Ardnaree, Islandeady will lock horns with Clonbur in the provincial final.
“It’s great to be in a Connacht final and to represent Mayo,” admitted McGowan. “Teams from Mayo have a great record in the competition and hopefully we will be able to continue that trend.”
But will Islandeady be hampered by the lengthy break since they captured the Mayo title?
“No, not at all. We’ve had two really tough league games since the final and they have prepared us really well. Both Breaffy and Hollymount/Carramore beat us by a point but we could have got something out of both those games had we got a little more luck. We proved that we were able to compete with an intermediate team and a senior side so that should give us plenty of confidence.”
The presence of Mayo manager James Horan at both the County Final and the recent league game in Carramore has led to some suggestions that some Islandeady players, including Danny McGowan, may be on his radar.
“When you are playing for a junior team you don’t really expect to get noticed,” offered the man himself, “But it’s been a fantastic year for the club and people are starting to see that talent that exits in Islandeady.
“I would love to get a run with the county. It would be a dream come true but we’ll see what happens. It was brilliant to be a part of the U-21 development squad and when you’re playing with the likes of Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor, who are not only the best players in the county, but among the best in the country, it’s a real bonus.”
The GMIT student is currently enjoying the warm temperatures in Tenerife, but intends to be back in plenty of time to lead Islandeady’s challenge on Sunday.
“It was something I booked a long time ago but I’ve been taking it easy and doing plenty of running to keep in decent shape,“ he explained. “We’re flying home on Wednesday so everything will focus on the match then.”