All-Ireland winner and former Donegal senior team mentor Tony Boyle has responded this week to the criticism levelled by All-Star defender Kevin Cassidy at John Joe Doherty and his management team in a newly published book.
Boyle, along with Tommy Ryan and Michael McGeehin, was part of the management team during Doherty’s two years as Donegal boss. Cassidy was captain of the Donegal team in 2010.
‘This is our Year’ was penned by well-known Fermanagh journalist Declan Bogue of Gaelic Life. It chronicles the 2010 season of a number of top Ulster GAA stars such as Cassidy, Ryan McMenamin (Tyrone), Steven McDonnell (Armagh), Barry Owens (Fermanagh), Aidan Carr (Down), Paddy Cunningham (Antrim), Micky Conlon (Derry) and Val Andrews and Terry Hyland (Cavan).
In the Gaoth Dobhair man’s section an exclusive extract which was recently published, Cassidy outlines the frustation he felt during 2010.
He was highly criticial of Doherty - who he described as a decent man - and his management team for the lack of proper preparation and a lack of tactical awarness.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat this week, Boyle said that he was very surprised to read Cassidy’s criticisms, especially coming from a player that he always had the height of respect for.
He insisted the main thing that Doherty and the management team tried to instill from day one was honesty and pride among the players.
In relation to a number of Cassidy’s criticisms and the lack of a professional approach to training and preparation, Boyle said: “We had one of the most highly respected Sports psychologists, Des Jennings from Armagh, involved with us to try and bring out some leadership qualities in the players. He had been with Armagh during their sucessful period.
“We did so to encourage the players to express themselves in team meetings and bring this on to the field. But sadly in all the team meetings we had, the same two or three players were speaking all the time and the rest just sitting there saying nothing.”
The Dungloe man said allowances could be made for the younger players, but he said he always found it hard to take in that the more experienced players had nothing to contribute.
He also went on to say that you always had the one or two disgruntled players that were always pulling against the grain, usually after being dropped.
He also expressed his disappointment that these players were never challenged by the other players, which resulted in a wedge being driven between the players and the management.
In response to the lack of proper training and the lack of fitness required for the modern game referred to by Cassidy, Boyle argued that they brought in some of the top people in the business to assist, in particular strength and conditioning training.
“Gerard Hartman from Limerick, recognised worldwide as an expert in strength and conditioning, was one such person. Tommy Stevenson from Armagh, also highly acclaimed, was another that assisted with strength and conditioning.
“But as Kevin admitted ‘most of them weren’t into training themselves. Kevin’s admission of players not being fit enough says more to me about the players’ mindset and what they are willing to put into training sessions.”
The lack of analysis of the opposition which was raised by Cassidy and the fact that the management never had an observer in the stand is also challenged by Boyle.
“All I can say here is that every team we played against were analysed before each game by Michael McGeehin. Specific match-ups and positional switches were made if needed. But when we lost it was the usual ‘it’s not our (players’) fault’. It was always the game-plan, the system, or we didn’t know our role, but never the players. Kevin would remember this if he thinks back to the Antrim game (2009).
“On the Down game (2010) that he spoke about, match-ups were made that day. But with championship games you will have some lads that will have an off day and some that are not up to it. I think the biggest thing we lacked that day was when after 20 minutes and Down were there to be put away we hadn’t enough leaders to drive on and kill the game. And it wouldn’t have mattered if we had a man in the stand or on the roof of the stand, we could see that from the sideline.”
Boyle admitted the one mistake that they as a management team made was that they expected some of older players to show more leadership qualities and to think on their feet in the course of games.
“This is why I would give Jim McGuinness great credit for realising this straight away when he came in and devising a game plan to make up for these shortcomings. As he (McGuinness) said himself if they had gone toe to toe with the Dubs they would have been beaten out the gate.”
Boyle finished up by saying he never got around to writing a book. “Maybe you have to make it more interesting but I’m sure I’ll get a chance to discuss this with Cass over a pint some time. Maybe even at the launch.”
John Joe Doherty did not wish to comment for now on the criticism and the contents of the book.
‘This is our Year’ will be officially launched by Joe Brolly, at Teach Mhici, Gweedore, on Saturday week, November 5 at 8pm.