It's well established that Jim McGuinness and Kevin Cassidy have an uneasy history.
Cassidy, Donegal's two-time All Star wing back, contributed to a book of Ulster GAA stories, entitled This Is Our Year, written by Declan Bogue in 2011.McGuinness believed Cassidy's comments betrayed his panel's internal code of omerta and removed the veteran servant from the intercounty football scene.
Yesterday Cassidy was in Croke Park to promote the Penn State versus UCF American Football match that takes place this Saturday. There were no questions on the topic.
Instead he was asked about McGuinness comparing Dublin's financial resources to Roman Abramovich putting oil money into Chelsea and the subsequent impact on the Premier League. "To be honest I think it was a silly comment," said Cassidy. "He has given out to Mark McHugh and Eamon McGee in the past for making silly comments."
McHugh also went the way of Cassidy, removed from the Donegal panel by McGuinness earlier this season. "I don't know if it is pressure or if Jim is trying to direct stuff away or whatever, but Dublin didn't need any more ammunition because there is enough there already.
“I know some things can be taken out of context, and maybe that’s what happened, but there is no need for it. Dublin deserve credit they don’t deserve it to be said [they’re successful] because of money.”
Cassidy went on to note Donegal's warm-weather training camp in Portugal and the recent five days at Johnstown House in Enfield to hone their game plan for Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final. "To be honest there is a lot of money in our county as well. Maybe for Jim to say that wasn't right, but I'm sure he realises that now."
The presumption is that Donegal will adopt a similar ultra defensive approach to what was used against Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final. Cassidy agrees but feels the loss of McHugh and Ryan Bradley [who emigrated due to unemployment] has made Donegal a weaker proposition.
“Yeah, it’s definitely an All-Ireland that we let slip. Had we got past Dublin, we would have beaten Kerry because they wouldn’t have been able to handle the way we set up that year. We were naive in thinking we had Dublin where we wanted. Colm [McFadden] was through on goal and had he been just a wee bit lower and it hit the net the game was over.
“We invited Dublin on and [Stephen] Cluxton got a few frees and what have you and Dublin gained momentum and just broke us down. I think at that time, after Diarmuid Connolly’s sending off, had we pushed Michael [Murphy] further up the field we would have got a score or two and it would have been too much.
“We’re asking the question are Donegal where they were in 2011? I don’t think they are because Ryan and Mark are two massive engines that came out of that system and it’s very hard to replace them.
“My own club-mate is in there [Odhran MacNiallais] and he’s having a fantastic season but he’s a different type of player to Ryan Bradley or Mark McHugh.”
To beat Dublin he feels that Murphy must be moved close to Dublin's goal in the second half. "They'll have to. Definitely not for the first half an hour or so anyway because if Donegal start with Michael Murphy up front it will weaken our midfield sector."
Who will win?
“It’s tough to see outside Dublin, to be honest. I think Donegal have a chance but I’m not going to sit here and say Donegal have better players than Dublin because they don’t. But every team is due an off day.
“I alluded to Mark earlier on: I think it’s only now that we will see Mark’s loss. I think we saw it a wee bit against Armagh. Legs wise, Ryan [McHugh] is a fantastic player but he’s not as mature as Mark yet.
“Donegal have a chance.”