Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Individualism makes the best sports people

THE news broke this week of Conor McKenna heading back down under for the upcoming season.

I’m sure it’s news Tyrone supporters didn’t want to hear at this time of the year.

I don’t know Conor personally, but he seems like a bit of a free spirit. So, if this is the right decision for him, it matters little what anybody else thinks. At the end of the day, you must do what keeps yourself happy.


We have tracked Conor’s progress over the last number of years as a young lad, half-hoping he would make a return to Ireland so we could see him in action for Tyrone.

When he made the decision to return, we were all excited to see how you would perform. Like any young lad living in Tyrone, or anywhere else, the dream is to win the All-Ireland and that draw brought Conor home. To say that move was pivotal to Tyrone’s success would be an understatement.

I remember working for TG4 when he made his debut against Donegal. Every time he touched the ball, you just felt like something was going to happen and he gave Tyrone massive lift. A buzz word in GAA circles at the minute is ‘clutch moments’ and when you think back to that All-Ireland success, the amount of those moments Conor produced was simply outstanding as he carried the fight to the opposition with his speed and direct running power.

After reaching the Holy Grail and achieving your goal, it’s hard to criticise any individual, but since that All-Ireland success Conor has struggled to find his rhythm again on the GAA pitch and indeed Tyrone have struggled to find a suitable position for him within the team.

I’m not sure what is happening within the Tyrone camp, but, from the outside looking in, all didn’t seem well with management and Conor. Sometimes if you are sort of a free spirit, that can alienate you from managers as they may treat you differently to other players. For me, that is one of the biggest mistakes managers make when managing their teams.

They try and treat everyone the same and expect everyone to be the same, but we are all individuals so naturally you have to handle certain situations differently depending on the player involved.

Again, I may be completely wrong, but it seems like Conor fell out of favour with the Tyrone management so you have to ask yourself did they handle him properly. And if not, why not? I spoke earlier about Conor being a bit of a free spirit and more often than not your most talented players are a little bit off-centre, so it’s up to you as a manager to nurture that to get the very best out of your best players when you have them at your disposal.

If we look across the water at the minute and the situation that is developing at Manchester United, where one of the greatest players of all time is being bashed left, right and centre in the media and labelled as a nuisance within the team.

People like Cristiano Ronaldo do not reach the heights that they have unless they are completely driven and ruthless in their efforts to get to the very top. That makes lesser players uncomfortable around them, so they will look for any excuse to bring that person down at all costs.

I was watching Monday night football recently and Stormzy was introduced after the game and asked, as a Man United supporter, what he thought of the whole Cristiano Ronaldo situation. I thought his answer summed it up perfectly. He said that when you reach the levels that Cristiano has reached in his career, no one, absolutely no one, can question anything he does. You just have to let greatness be great. Now I’m not comparing Conor McKenna to Cristiano Ronaldo, but you get where I’m coming from.

If the issue with Conor was his approach or was the way he approached the game, then sometimes management have to handle individuals differently in order to keep everyone happy. Now that Conor has made the decision to return to the AFL, all you can do is wish him the very best. At the end of the day, he achieved what he came here for – guiding his native Tyrone to an All-Ireland title. If Conor feels that the right decision for him is to head back ‘down under’ then all the very best to him. There is no doubt Tyrone will miss him badly.

I’ll leave you with this question: would the Bulls have won so much if they chased Denis Rodman out the door? Individualism is what makes the best sports people.

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