While fall-out to an article in the Irish Independent on Monday by Vincent Hogan has elicited mixed views among two of the county’s former footballers, though there was agreement that the words used were not helpful.
Donegal’s 1992 All-Ireland winner Manus Boyle has expressed his concern over the Kevin Cassidy saga and the negative impact it is having on the conclusion to a fine season for the county panel.
Boyle, who scored nine points in the 1992 final against Dublin, was reacting to the article penned Hogan, titled ‘McGuinness a leader of sheep,’ which queried the loyalty of the Donegal panel to one another in the wake of Cassidy’s expulsion for apparently breaching a confidentiality agreement. Cassidy and his wife Sarah then learned they wouldn’t be welcome on the panel’s holiday to Florida next month.
Hogan wrote: “For the players to comply with that, for them to - seemingly - protect their own right to a boarding card by turning their backs on a man whose contribution to Donegal’s championship run was - let’s face it - epic is, in any objective analysis, damning. The loyalty of true brothers or the abject compliance of sheep?”
McGuinness’s decision to remove Cassidy from his panel came as a consequence of the Gweedore wing-back’s participation in a book called ‘This is our Year,’ chronicling the Ulster championship through contributors from the nine counties. After taking over, McGuinness, in an effort to keep affairs in-house and build a team bond, instructed his panel to sign a confidentiality agreement.
At this juncture it’s claimed schoolteacher Cassidy failed to disclose information of his involvement with Declan Bogue, a Fermanagh journalist and author of the book, and McGuinness was unaware of the publication until it was serialised locally last month.
“I think Kevin Cassidy was very harshly treated,” Boyle, a Donegal Democrat columnist, said yesterday. “The whole thing could have been handled better by the management and if that was the case people like Vincent Hogan wouldn’t have had anything to write about.
“I wasn’t particularly impressed with his terming of the panel as ‘sheep,’ which was not a nice reference and one that didn’t keep with the rest of the article. It could’ve been worded differently but I agree with a lot of the article’s content. It’s well written besides that and Hogan is entitled to give his opinion.”
McGuinness, in his debut season, took a Donegal panel low on confidence and occasionally discipline to the Allianz NFL Division Two title and a first Ulster championship in 19 years, before losing out by two points in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
Cassidy, for his part, played a starring role and his winning point in stoppage time in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare was a pivotal moment on his way to winning a second All-Star.
“I can see Jim’s need to create some discipline within the panel but Kevin is an honest lad and having read the book I don’t think there’s an awful lot he said that we didn’t already know,” Boyle added. “Maybe it’s an embarrassment to the management that Kevin has merely confirmed some of the things we always thought.
“Kevin is a grown man, a man who gave 10 years of his life to football in Donegal and a teacher of children. It seems as though he couldn’t give his opinion. In fact they are all grown men and I don’t see the need to make them put their signature to an agreement or hand their phones over to the manager three hours before an All-Ireland semi-final.
“This whole affair is no good for anyone and I’m sure Kevin still has friends on the panel that will wonder, after putting in huge commitment, is this the way they will be treated if they give their opinion?
“Hindsight is a great thing but if Jim wasn’t happy with what Kevin did, maybe it might have been better to keep it quiet and just omit him from the Dr McKenna Cup panel and have a word with him in private, explaining his reasons for dropping him. We had a great year and yet this is how it is ending. In Donegal we have a habit of shooting ourselves in the foot and washing our dirty linen in public.”
Meanwhile, former Donegal player John Haran is not happy at all with Hogan and his comments. The St Eunan’s clubman feels that Hogan is taking a very narrow view and does not take into account where Donegal have come from under McGuinness.
“I think it is unfortunate that the whole thing has happened, but I do believe it is right up the media’s street given the time of the year when there is not a whole lot else to write or comment about in the GAA,” Haran said. “I think Vincent Hogan took a very narrow view and did not consider where Donegal have come from under Jim McGuinness since he took over 12 months ago.
“And I totally disagree with his assertion that the Donegal players have turned their back on Kevin Cassidy and back him against a man that has turned their and the county’s fortunes around so much and led them and the county to a first Ulster title in 19 years.
“I think he (Hogan) is being totally unreasonable and I did not like the reference either to the Donegal players being like sheep. While I can see where he is coming from on this I think this is because of his narrow view of the whole episode and does not take into account the overall situation.
“It is an unfortunate episode and is certainly something we could have done without given the year we’ve enjoyed. But hopefully, it will all settle down and we will get the show back on the road again next year.”
The Donegal Democrat also contacted county chairman PJ McGowan, who did not wish to comment on the article.