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Donegal's title hopes lie with Colm McFadden, says Kevin Cassidy

By Declan Bogue

Thoughts of Dublin and Donegal bring Kevin Cassidy back to the last time he played for his county – the infamous 2011 All-Ireland semi-final. It was the game that appalled half the country, while the other half looked on, intrigued to various degrees with Dublin's swashbuckling style held in the grip of a massed defence.

Only Colm McFadden acted as an attacking force for Donegal.

Such was the innovation of the plan that manager Jim McGuinness and his assistant Rory Gallagher requested that the players all hand in their mobile phones before whipping the dust covers off the gameplan.

That anecdote became famous and was a vivid illustration of the secrecy of the Donegal set-up, so it is with hearty chuckles that when the press corps push their mobile phones towards Cassidy at a Croke Park press conference, he remarks: "Last time I saw mobile phones coming like this at me, they were going into a bag!"

Such an act of confiscation would hardly be necessary now, according to Cassidy.

"I would say Donegal are in the groove by now. They probably know they are up against it but they will be confident coming up the road."

Key to that will be getting McFadden back into his groove of 2012 that almost yielded him a Player of the Year award.

The livin' has not been as easy for the St Michael's man this summer, but his former team-mate believes it is necessary to stick with him although he has only registered 0-9 this season, just two of them coming from play and one of them punched over the bar.

Cassidy, now player-manager of Gaoth Dobhair at the age of 32, is learning all the time how to treat players with sympathy, and he certainly extends that to McFadden when he says: "Colm needs confidence and you almost know from the first ball or two what you are going to get from him for the rest of the day and he is getting a bit of stick this year.

"But I don't think it's fair because without Colm in 2012 there is no way Donegal would have won the All-Ireland. They must be mindful of that and give the lad a chance."

He continued: "I was at the quarter-final and I never heard any stuff directed at him, but he is a confidence player and without Colm McFadden, Donegal simply won't win. I know that from down through the years so if Colm has an off-day on Sunday, there is no way we will win.

"We should be doing everything we can to keep his confidence up and give him every chance to turn the corner.

"But that's for Jim and the lads to get him primed and hopefully he will turn up on Sunday in form. He will definitely start.

"It's not an option to drop him – it's not going down the road of loyalty or anything, but you won't get the same coming off the bench from Colm as you would off Paddy McBrearty, Odhran MacNiallais or Darach O'Connor so I think you need Colm starting."

If McFadden's form is a missing jigsaw piece, Cassidy also believes that the Mark McHugh effect will be seen in its most vivid form this weekend. They have managed alright without him to date, but in Croke Park his footballing intellect will be sorely missed, Cassidy contends. "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. Maybe that will play out on Sunday. Donegal have a chance, definitely. They were in a training camp until yesterday and they'll look forward to coming to Dublin because they have nothing to lose.

"They're 7/1 or whatever they are with the bookies so all the pressure is on Dublin. It's just how Dublin deal with them and how much Donegal's top players are on form on the day."

In mentioning Donegal's training camp, there is a natural curiosity over McGuinness pointing to the financial advantages that Dublin enjoy, drawing comparisons to Roman Abramovich and Chelsea, but Cassidy does not see it as being a decisive factor.

"To be honest I think it was a silly comment," he answered.

"He has given out to Mark McHugh and Eamonn McGee in the past for making silly comments. 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."

He added: "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 it's because of money."

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