Kevin Cassidy

Kevin Cassidy: Rochford’s big influence on Donegal

WE live to fight another day! Last Monday as the Irish Government met to discuss the rapid increase in cases over the last number of weeks, it looked like the beginning of the end for the All-Ireland Championships.

The order was to move to Level Five full lockdown and under that all sporting activity was to cease. The Irish Government agreed to allow elite sport to continue and they thankfully included our Gaelic games in that category (although there remains some confusion about underage grades).

For all of the players, coaches, management and supporters this is fantastic news but it was also met with anger and frustration. A lot of people argued that if we move to Level Five then everything should go. The counter argument from the GAA was that the playing of county games is safe and that the risk of spreading the virus was slim.


We are missing the point here as people’s anger and frustration is not due to the risk of spreading the virus, but more that on one hand people’s jobs and businesses are being destroyed due to the Government insisting that everything closes and then on the other hand they allow Gaelic games to continue. I think with time we will all be glad that sport has been given the go ahead but I fully understand people’s anger at this time.

Now that we have been given the green light, it’s over to every single one of us to make sure that this goes as smoothly as possible and it lifts the entire mood of the nation. We know the importance sport plays in in all of our lives so hopefully with the All-Ireland Championships going ahead it will give people an outlet, A distraction if you like, away from the constant negativity that comes with this pandemic.

I must admit it was great to have the games back last weekend. I covered the Donegal and Tyrone game in Ballybofey and it was just great to see some live action again.

Obviously these two heavyweights clash next week again in the Ulster Championship so a lot of the talk was naturally around seeing how they have managed the lockdown and how their preparations have gone.

In fairness to both teams, it was a decent game with some very good individual performances and overall both sides would have been happy with the run out.

Donegal grabbed the two points which now means that the pressure is off in terms of relegation and they can now solely focus on their championship opener. For Tyrone they are real danger of going down and it will be interesting to see how they approach this week’s game with Mayo as another loss would see them relegated.

To the game itself last Sunday, I must admit the Donegal‘s performance impressed me. Yes they had their defensive structure in place which they are so good at, but they also carried a threat going forward.

Stephen Rochford‘s influence on the team is clear to be seen and every time Donegal retreated into their defensive structure he could be heard roaring from the sideline for at least two players to stay up front. This gave Donegal an outlet and with their accurate kicking out of defence, they hurt Tyrone before they could get their defensive structure in place.

From a Tyrone point of view, it’s hard to know how much they showed us on Sunday. For most of the game they played with the 15 men behind the ball and very rarely committed anyone into the attacking third.

We are used to seeing Tyrone’s defensive structure but that is normally paired with their swashbuckling counter-attacking style of play but we didn’t see this last Sunday. There is no doubt that next weekend we will see a massive lift in intensity from both teams and we should have a real cracker to look forward to.

The one major plus for Tyrone last Sunday was the performance of the returning Conor McKenna.

There was a lot of talk about McKenna in the lead-up to the game and he didn’t let us down. To me he has it all in terms of strength, pace, accuracy and skill, so I look forward to seeing more of him over the next few years.

This weekend will see the final round of the league games before we head into the all-important championship openers.

There are a couple of big games with league honours and also relegation at stake but it’s really hard to know how seriously teams will approach this weekend given the fact that the real stuff begins next weekend.

Will Tyrone go down go Castlebar with all guns blazing in search of the two points and risk losing any more of their players for the championship? Will Donegal even bother sending any of their senior players all the way down to Kerry?

It’s a game that has no meaning for them while on the other hand should Kerry win they will probably claim the league.

These are the sort of things that management teams will be teasing out this week ahead of the last round of fixtures.

This last round of games and results will probably be determined by how seriously teams approach it as there is no doubt that they will have already turned to the big opening championship openers next weekend.

At least we have games to look forward to this weekend and for that we are grateful.

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