Kevin Cassidy has re-iterated his claim that Donegal’s rigorous tactics could’ve taken them to victory in the All-Ireland championship.
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton was the hero of Sunday’s final as his free-kick in the second minute of stoppage time sealed a dramatic comeback for the Leinster champions against a Kerry side that had led by four points with seven minutes remaining. Dublin’s 1-12 to 1-11 win sealed a first All-Ireland title in 16 years and it was their first success over Kerry in the championship since the 1977 semi-final.
Thirty-year-old Cassidy appeared on RTE’s The Committee Room and TG4’s Seo Spoirt ahead of Sunday’s final. Cassidy was of the opinion Donegal could’ve caused the Kerry team managed by Jack O’Connor significant problems and having watched the final maintains that stance. Dublin overcame a two-point interval deficit to defeat Donegal 0-8 to 0-6 in last month’s All-Ireland semi-final.
“It’s a real pity we didn’t get over the line against Dublin because it was hard watching the final on television,” Cassidy said yesterday. “That’s probably what hurt the most as I think we had the chance to beat Dublin as we worked so hard in that game. It would’ve been an interesting contest between us and Kerry but I suppose we’ll never know now.
“You have to hand it to the Dubs all the same. Kevin McManamon came off the bench and made a big difference, which he did against us in the semi-final. Dublin had a gameplan and they stuck to it. Kerry didn’t really open up as Kerry teams can do but that’s thanks to Dublin, who kept a zonal defensive set-up with the half-forward line of Bryan Cullen, Paul Flynn, and Barry Cahill all dropping in to help. That’s essential as you cannot give the likes of Gooch (Colm Copper) any space at all.”
Donegal’s policies were heavily criticised after their two-point loss to Dublin but Cassidy insists the possession game and defensive structure imposed by manager Jim McGuinness is a tactic being repeated around the country.
“People are not willing to kick away possession,” Cassidy added. “Nowadays you see a lot of low-scoring games, it’s just the way football has gone. Defences are tight and you could see that on Sunday. We got a lot of criticism but it didn’t bother me or one of the lads one bit. I’m sure Dublin don’t care today what anyone says about them because for them it was all about winning an All-Ireland and that’s what they did.
“As for us, next year will be more of the same but I think we’ll be a bit more creative. I’m sure Jim has a plan in place but people tend to overlook the fact we hadn’t won a game in the Ulster championship for four years before he came in. When people are talking about Donegal they have to consider where we came from.
“We had a lot of hurdles to overcome this season and we managed to get over most of them, although it obviously would’ve been great had we gone one more step to make the All-Ireland final. But everyone is lifted by the year we had and there’s a confidence developing because of it. I stepped aside last year and am delighted to have come back and I’ll be on a weights programme for the winter and am looking forward to getting back training with the lads in January. The camp is right now and making the sacrifice is much easier when things are going well.”
Gaoth Dobhair wing-back Cassidy enjoyed an excellent campaign and was at the weekend named on The Sunday Game team of the season alongside county team-mates Neil McGee and Karl Lacey. Also, Cassidy’s dramatic winning point against Kildare in the All-Ireland quarter-final was voted as the second best moment of the season, beaten only by Cluxton’s winner for Dublin in Sunday’s final.