Former All-Star Kevin Cassidy reflects on career, Donegal, Dublin and management


Former All-Star Kevin Cassidy reflects on career, Donegal, Dublin and management

Kevin Cassidy

Tonight on TG4, former Donegal footballer Kevin Cassidy will feature in a new series of Laochra Gael.
This week he has been reflecting on his career, which has spanned two decades and includes winning two Donegal championships and two All-Stars.
To say that there were ups and downs at club and county level would be an understatement.
"I think that is the character that I am, completely committed and driven to do things and other times I will take my eye off the ball and pursue other things.
"Looking back on it now, that is one of the regrets that I do have, that I didn't remain as consistent as I could have done from start to finish. I probably could have achieved away more. But life is life, you make those mistakes and you try to learn from them. Some of the mistakes I made allowed me to pursue other things that I have enjoyed so you have to take the rough with the smooth."
There have been retirements and returns at club and county level.
"I have always been that way. If I feel something can be better if I'm not there, I take the exit door and I leave. I remember that day in Crossmaglen (2010) we were hammered as well. I felt this is the time to go and let the young fellows through.
"Likewise that day in Glenties, things weren't pulling, partly because the Donegal fall-out was beginning to affect our own club dressing roof. I thought to myself if I take myself out of this situation, maybe it is the best thing to do for the club.
"Thankfully, I got the chance to go back for both. I got another year with Donegal in 2011 which I'm gratefully for and I really enjoyed and then obviously I got a couple of years with the club which was really good."
At club level there will be a new challenge in 2021 as Cassidy has taken on the role of management with Gaoth Dobhair.
"To be honest with you last year, we probably took our eye off the ball. The year before this year we had our coach in place, Michael Boyle and he was unbelievable. He took us to levels we knew we could reach but we just needed someone to put the structures in place.
"Last year, we opted to go without a coach and listen in the modern day club game it is a non-winner. That was the reason myself and Joe Duffy came in this year, to give the club structure, try and look after young players coming through and we were lucky to secure the services of Maxi Curran and Maxi will operate as coach.
"Listen, I'm not saying we are going to win anything but I think in the next three or four years it will put a structure there for the young fellas coming through."
The veteran, who has played at full-forward in recent years, agrees that there is a gap developing between the top teams and the rest in Donegal.
"When I came on the scene here in Donegal you obviously had your Ballyshannons and Killybegs and St Eunan's and stuff who were strong. But any team could beat any team on any given day. But now, if you look back at the results over the last couple of years, there are 21, 22, 23 point wins between teams. The top four there seem to be ahead of everybody else.
"It is hard for other clubs to reach that due to lack of numbers or resources. But it is something we have to look at in Donegal. How to you bridge that gap? Do the top four just keep competing. Obviously we had Sean MacCumhaill's last year coming and they are a good outfit. But outside of that, who else is going to make the breakthrough."
He doesn't expect that there will be any football before April at club level.
"To be honest with the numbers at present (Covid). But hopefully, that will slow down after Christmas. In terms of the intercounty going back, it will possibly be delayed by a couple of weeks," said Cassidy, who said that the 2020 championship had been a great success, even if supporters were not allowed in.
"I think it was a fantastic outlet for us mentally, to have something to look forward to. And I think the sooner that gets back up and running, it gives a glimmer of hope. Because at the minute every house is the same, it is just Groundhog Day. You do the same things day in, day out. You try to keep safe, to stay indoors and you have people isolating as well, which is a nightmare."
Asked about Dublin's dominance at intercounty level, he thinks that they can be caught. He thinks Donegal will have learned a harsh lesson this year.
"I would say, and you cannot blame managers, players just naturally take their eye off the ball. People start to talk you up and you start to believe in the hype and you start to look forward instead of focusing on the task in hand.
"I think we learned a massive lesson this year. You cannot take any team for granted, especially in Ulster. I was looking ahead, but it is alright for me because I'm not in the camp. But I was really looking forward to that game with Dublin. Mayo can take them on man for man and really go at them. I really thought Donegal could give them a game this year, I really did. And it's just a real pity we didn't get the chance to see that in action," said Cassidy, who said that Donegal had a very strong kick-out strategy, could compete at midfield and had the forwards that would occupy any defence."
And will Dublin continue to dominate?
"I'm not so sure. You look at Tyrone with a net set up and McShane back this year, McKenna with another year under his belt; Kerry are going to be really hurt after last year, they're going to come back. I was really impressed with Mayo this year, the youngsters that they brought through.
"Dublin are going to be caught, it is just a matter of the first team that catches them," said Cassidy. "It is not as if they are light years ahead. Dublin are so far ahead of the chasing pack as regards 6, 7, 8, 9. But the other four aren't that far off them.
"I have great admiration for this Dublin team. If anyone of you have read Bernard Brogan's book recently, everybody always talks about the money, the coaches and GPOs and different things throughout the schools, but those All-Irelands were won in the Dublin mindset.
"You spoke about Kerry slipping against Cork, Donegal slipping against Cavan. Dublin just don't do that. They are so strong and they spend so much time working on their mindset. That's what sets them apart," said Cassidy, who said Neil McGee returning to the Donegal set up for another year was significant.
"If Neil felt there was no chance, he would hang them up."
Asked if he would consider management at intercounty level, he was quick to respond that it wouldn't be for him.

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