Book review: 'Winning - How Donegal Changed The Game Forever'

Kavagh lifts lid on Donegal from player's viewpoint

Alan Aherne

Published 15/12/2015 | 00:00

'Winning - How Donegal Changed The Game Forever'
'Winning - How Donegal Changed The Game Forever'

It's always fascinating, as an outsider, to assess a particular situation from more than one point of view.

And in that regard, the compare and contrast exercise comes into sharp focus for any reader who opts to leaf through Rory Kavanagh's 'Winning - How Donegal Changed The Game Forever' either before or after looking at the Jim McGuinness Memoirs which were reviewed in this column not too long ago.

McGuinness was the leader while Kavanagh was one of his foot soldiers, and it's clear that their impressions of the Donegal training sessions were poles apart.

When the players were in full flow, the manager viewed it as a special, almost other-worldly experience, watching endless drills as they were performed at a blinding pace and with absolute synchronicity.

It wasn't quite as poetic though from Kavanagh's point of view. The constant cries of McGuinness and his assistant, Rory Gallagher, to 'thump him, thump him' form his abiding memory of training.

This command would ring in the Letterkenny man's ears night after night as the backroom team sought to hammer home one of their guiding principles - to press the opposition hard and often, and to ensure that a physical marker was laid down from the throw-in.

While their memories of training may differ, it's very interesting to note that Kavanagh was in full agreement with his manager when he removed Kevin Cassidy from the panel for contributing to a book which lifted the lid on some aspects of team preparations.

Indeed, the St. Eunan's clubman goes so far as to admit that he would have crossed the road to avoid Cassidy at that time, such was the disgust he felt at what he viewed as the disloyal actions of a valued team-mate and colleague.

However, he qualifies that by saying he doesn't feel so strongly about the saga now as he settles into his retirement.

The book is written in conjunction with former Meath footballer Liam Hayes who brings his intimate knowledge of the inter-county scene and the dynamic of the dressing-room to bear.

The contents are broken down into four chapters on 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, but Kavanagh's recollections of previous campaigns before the arrival of McGuinness are contained therein. Italicised text is used to signify that the reader is moving in time to an earlier year, but it can be tough work constantly jumping back and forward from one era to the next.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of Kevin Cassidy's collaboration with journalist Declan Bogue in 2011 for 'This Is Our Year', we are now fully versed in all there is to know about the Donegal team of 2011 to 2014 thanks to Jim McGuinness and Rory Kavanagh.

Finally, with Christmas fast approaching, and with the book reviewing duties being passed on to a colleague for next week, it's time for me to list my recommendations for the best sports publications to read over the festive period.

Number one on my list is Michael Calvin's 'Living On The Volcano', a fascinating look at life as a manager in the cut-throat world of professional football in England.

'56 - The Story of the Bradford Fire' by Martin Fletcher left a lasting impression on me too, but it's a tough subject matter that may not appeal to everybody.

As for G.A.A., John Leonard's 'Dub Sub Confidential' and 'Until Victory Always' by Jim McGuinness would top my personal list.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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