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Donegal success is an open book for Kevin Cassidy

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Kevin Cassidy is an ambassador for a charity cycle of the entire Wild Atlantic Way

Kevin Cassidy is an ambassador for a charity cycle of the entire Wild Atlantic Way

Kevin Cassidy insists he 'wasn't going to look back or hold any grudges' over his exit from the Donegal panel. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Kevin Cassidy insists he 'wasn't going to look back or hold any grudges' over his exit from the Donegal panel. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

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Kevin Cassidy is an ambassador for a charity cycle of the entire Wild Atlantic Way

Jimmy's doing it his way, and Kevin Cassidy holds no grudges, not as a man, not as a footballer, and not as a club manager whose team has to sit idly by until Donegal's Championship season is over.

Quite simply, Jim McGuinness has stamped his authority not only on the county team, but also on the county board and all the clubs in Donegal.

Success justifies everything. The winner takes it all.

Cassidy was the first high-profile casualty of the McGuinness iron fist in an iron glove approach when he was ditched following his contribution to Declan Bogue's excellent book 'This is Our Year - A Season on the Inside of a Football Championship.'

The book was published at the end of 2011, the season when Donegal won Ulster, and frightened the life out of the Dubs in a low-scoring All-Ireland semi-final.

Jimmy felt Cassidy's interviews broke the confidentiality agreement he had insisted upon for the squad and that was it. Ranks closed, and the former Donegal All Star was out in the cold.

Unlike David O'Leary, who was famously banished by Jack Charlton in 1986, only to be recalled two years later, there was no coming back for Cassidy, and no All-Ireland medal in 2012.

Disagreement

Cassidy's view is: "It's old news now. I've only seen him (McGuinness) once, and it's not that it's out of choice or anything like that, it's just that our paths wouldn't cross.

"Football is football. What happens in football you can't take with you into your personal life.

"You can't feel aggrieved by somebody, and you can't let somebody annoy you. Things move on. It's only sport at the end of the day. We had a disagreement.

"People always ask you what do you think of this and that, but the day I left Donegal, that was me finished.

"I wasn't going to look back or hold any grudges."

In fact, Cassidy can only admire the achievements of McGuinness, who has brought Donegal to heights undreamed of back in 2010 when they were hammered by Armagh.

This All-Ireland will, of course, ultimately be decided by the players on the pitch, but in Cassidy's view, the battle of the generals, McGuinness and Eamonn Fitzmaurice, and success of their respective strategies, is central to the outcome.

"I don't think there's anything that can upset Donegal because they're so well prepared.

"They're prepared for all eventualities," he says.

"They'll have a plan in place for everybody who comes off the bench for Kerry, and for whatever style of play Kerry adopt, so I don't think the Donegal system can be upset.

"For me, this game will come down to how well Kerry can handle Donegal and whether they can cope with the blanket defence while not giving Donegal too much space in the Kerry half.

"That's where the game is going to be won and lost so this final will definitely be down to the two managements."

Attractive as the novelty of this pairing is for supporters and neutrals, Cassidy believes Donegal might have preferred to face Mayo in this final.

"To be honest, I think the Donegal camp would rather have been playing Mayo because Kerry - we're playing our third, they have won 36 All-Irelands - are not going to fear going to Croke Park and playing a final," he explains. "In fact, they're going to relish it.

"Those young Kerry lads were brought up watching an era when players won five, six or seven All-Irelands, so your Geaneys and your O'Donoghues, they want to get their first senior medal. It's a massive incentive for them, and for Donegal, playing Kerry will be a different proposition from playing Mayo."

The 33 year old Gaoth Dobhair player-manager feels that Kingdom boss Fitzmaurice deserves high praise for guiding the green and gold through this campaign.

"I've been very impressed with him. He has changed his tactics according to the opposition Kerry have faced, rather than always play the same way," he says.

"It's going to be interesting to see whether Fitzmaurice pushes up on Donegal or whether he sits back and plays a similar type of game, and hopes that he has the better ball players that can by-pass Donegal.

"There are a lot of things you have to factor in, like the Star (Kieran Donaghy), the way he's playing. That gives them an extra option in attack. It all depends on which way they decide to go," said Cassidy.

The decision to back the manager's insistence on delaying the club championship kept the majority of players in Donegal on hold, but as player-manager of Gaoth Dobhair, Cassidy has no complaints.

His club has nine players involved between the seniors and U-21s and the Donegal championship is scheduled to start on Sunday week. It was a risky call by McGuinness, one that has paid off.

"For the long term, something must be done but for one year, it's not going to kill anybody," he says.

"It's hard to argue with success. If it was the case that Jim didn't win anything in 2011 and 2012, and he was asking to put championships off, there's no way they'd be put off.

"But when people are succeeding, and are trying their best, you must give them every opportunity."

- Kevin Cassidy is an ambassador for a charity cycle of the entire Wild Atlantic Way where participants are accommodated by Irish pubs along the whole route. The cycle demonstrates the importance of the Irish pub to the Wild Atlantic Way and Irish tourism.

Irish Independent