Kevin Cassidy has revealed he turned down an invitation by Jim McGuinness to re-join the Donegal panel earlier this year.
In an exclusive interview with Cassidy and Conor Mortimer in tomorrow’s Weekend Sport section of the Irish Examiner, the Gweedore man recounts how McGuinness met him at his Letterkenny school at Easter where they had what Cassidy, 31, described as “a very civilised conversation, there were no heated moments”.
It was the first time the pair had sat down together since Cassidy contributed to the This Is Our Year book, which compelled McGuinness to axe him from the panel, deemingit was a breach of their code of conduct.
After clearing the air, McGuinness offered Cassidy the opportunity to come back but he later declined because he feared it would impact on the panel as well as his family.
“The opportunity was there to go back but I said to him I didn’t want to go back and bring a whole mediacircus with me because these boys were about to go into their Championship season.
“I don’t hold any grudges, I’ve never fallen out with anybody (about it) and I never will but you learn as you go on.”
Cassidy informed McGuinness of his decision while on holidays a week later.
In it, he expressed his gratitude towards McGuinness for everything that he had done for him last season.
At the meeting, Cassidy stressed to McGuinness that he had not revealed any major secrets about Donegal.
“I didn’t think I let him down and that’s where we had the conversation.”
Cassidy said he has no regrets about passing up the chance at rejoining the panel which might have led to playing in Sunday’s All-Ireland medal.
“You talk about your All-Irelands and your Ulsters or Connachts but at the end of the day it's only a circle of a medal.
“I'd appreciate more the people I have met. I wouldn't have known Conor Mortimer or anybody if I wasn't involved in GAA.
“I've had fantastic appearances and it's shaped me as a character.
“If I wasn't involved in the GAA I don't think I'd be the person I am today and that's what I take away from it.
“There are a lot of people who weren't lucky enough to play on good teams like we were able to and won stuff.”
Meanwhile Michael Murphy will become the youngest captain of an All-Ireland winning county sinceKerry’s Liam Hassett 15 years ago if he climbs the Hogan Stand steps on Sunday.
At 23 years, one month and 20 days, Murphy would be younger than both Declan and Darran O’Sullivan who were 23 but slightly older than their Donegal counterpart when they lifted the Sam Maguire for Kerry in 2006 and 2009 respectively.
McGuinness’ decision to make Murphy his captain needs little explanation.
The Glenswilly man is mature beyond his years.
It’s also this writer’s contention that he hasn’t been fully fit throughout this campaign and, as much as he has been sacrificing his natural game, his deeper role has lent to that.
Yet his scoring rate hasn’t dipped much from last year.
In 2011, he bagged 1-11 over six games, four points coming from play.
This year, he’s 0-13 in five matches, all but two points coming from placed balls.
That said, defenders Frank McGlynn (1-3), Karl Lacey (0-4) and the deep-sitting Mark McHugh (0-6) are among nine team-mates that all scored more than him from play.
For a man who totalled 36 points (16 from play) in the 2009 Championship, Murphy insists he isn’t perturbed about his role further away from the posts.
“It is not something I have thought of.
“This year, with injuries and things, I suppose I have not got on the field as much as I would have wanted, but playing in an All-Ireland final now is the dream of all footballers and it’s a chance for us to seize that now for 15 that are starting and five subs coming on.
“Collectively, much has been made of roles within the team and it is just important that we carry out those roles to the best of our ability on the day.”
A little while ago, Murphy might have laughed had someone told him Donegal would be in an All-Ireland final this year.
“That’s the distance we have come. But we are not looking at that until the months of November andDecember.
“It is just important now that we go out and try and perform in this final.
“Finals are there to be won.”
Maybe Murphy back then bought a little into the idea people had of Donegal footballers.
“But that’s certainly changed under McGuinness.
“It’s not too long ago that people were looking at Donegal as, and I don’t like quoting this, as ‘party animals’ so obviously it was something that needed changing.
“Whatever perception people have of Donegal and Donegal footballers, it is not something that bothers us. The most important thing for us is the 30-man squad we have, the backroom team we have.
“For us, representing Donegal is a massive, massive honour.
“Jim always refers to it before we go out onto a football pitch and we put on our Donegal jerseys, that we are not just representing ourselves but that we are representing the whole county and when we pull off the jersey, we are still representatives of Donegal.
“That’s very important for us, whether that be in Dublin at a pre or post-match meal, whether that be speaking to media, we are conscious that we are representing Donegal and it is important that we uphold that tradition.”
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