GAA Football

Derry sniping culture must change, says Damian Cassidy

Damian Cassidy was previously Derry manager for two seasons in 2009 and 2010. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

FORMER Derry manager Damian Cassidy has ruled himself out of a return to the helm and says that a solution must be found to a sniping culture that is “at epidemic proportions”.

The Bellaghy man, who has spent much of his time since stepping down as Oak Leaf boss in 2010 as Clonoe boss, is understood to have been nominated alongside his brother Joe, who is currently in charge of their native club.

The deadline for nominations passed at the weekend and it’s understood that the Cassidys have been put forward along with former captain Johnny McBride, current minor manager Damian McErlain, ex-Tyrone under-21 boss Peter Doherty and ex-Antrim boss Liam Bradley.

Derry county committee also has the right to nominate and it is likely that they will employ a wider scope that could include Kilcoo boss Paul McIver and Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke, whose future looks uncertain after their heavy loss to Dublin on Saturday.

Cassidy, who feels that the county board should approach either O’Rourke or experienced Killyclogher boss Dominic Corrigan, feels the mentality within the county must be altered no matter who takes over from Damian Barton.

“This culture that’s been developed in Derry is now at epidemic proportions, where supporters and people who follow it at club level have been piping in players’ ears for so long about ‘don’t go to the county team, that’s a waste of time’ that it’s now a serious issue,” said Cassidy, who managed the county for two years in 2009 and ’10.

“You have players who pull the plug at the first hurdle they face as a player.

“In Tyrone, there are very few players who come on to the panel and play in their first year – Declan McClure [whom he coaches in Clonoe] being one of them, highly unusual.

“Padraig Hampsey sat on the bench all last year. That would never happen in Derry. You have an apprenticeship to serve in Tyrone.

“The question I’d be asking players is if I put you on the bench for five months for whatever reason, you’re not ready or you’re not playing well enough, are you still going to be there? If the answer’s not yes then you’re better without them.”

Cassidy also questioned whether the county has the financial power to compete with the top counties and feels more must be done to protect players from being out of pocket because of football.

The 1993 All-Ireland winner says he tried to bring about a system whereby self-employed players’ wages were covered if they got injured on Derry duty.

“There’s an issue I tried to correct for myself that if Fergal Doherty or Patsy Bradley were injured playing a match and missed work because of it, that there was finance available through Club Derry to pay their wages. Such a basic concept.

“They shouldn’t be out of pocket. In this day and age, you can’t expect players to be out of pocket.

“It’s going on Thursday evening for a training workshop for the weekend having those things covered. You only have to do it a couple of times a years.

“That doesn’t have to be a massive amount of money because you’re not talking a lot of players, but it’s massively important. You’re looking after players to ensure their buy-in. It would change the whole culture of the thing.

“While that’s at the top end, you don’t need to have that to be a lot better than we are.

“The truth of the matter is that from the age of 23 down, Derry have an awful lot of good footballers.

“Those players are listening to people in their clubs telling them that when the going gets half tough, ‘what are you doing up there?’”

Various Derry managers in recent years have trawled the intermediate and junior club leagues in the county looking for potential inter-county players, but with practically no joy.

Former Loup player Mickey O’Brien is believed to have been the last player to play Championship football for Derry while playing junior club football in the county during the 1980s.

Cassidy feels that an overhaul of where elite coaching is aimed at, as well as opening the senior club championship to divisional sides picked from junior and intermediate as is done in Kerry, is imperative.

“The development squads have to be pitched at intermediate and junior clubs from under-6s up to under-16. That’s where the coaching needs to be improved.

“That’s not meant to be an insult to the people who are busting a gut in those clubs, but it’s just a harsh reality. That’s where quality coaching needs to be put into the clubs and coach the coaches over a significant period of time so that those areas are improved.

“To me, we badly need a similar system to Kerry where junior and intermediate clubs come together to play in the senior championship, so that those players are getting exposed to that level of football on a regular basis.

“You can’t just keep doing the same thing and expecting results to be different.”

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