Former Donegal All-Star Kevin Cassidy has said he still fears Armagh, and admits that the psychological wounds of old defeats against the Orchard men could still exist.
Cassidy played on Donegal sides that tried and failed to topple Armagh in the early 00’s and suffered some painful defeats to Armagh during his long and distinguished inter-county career.
While many of the current panel were involved in that painful and embarrassing 2010 qualifier in Crossmaglen when Armagh walloped Donegal 2-14 to 0-11.
On the eve of an All-Ireland quarter-final clash with their old enemies Cassidy has reflected on some of those battles.
For Cassidy, the prospect of facing Armagh was a psychological stumbling block that Donegal could just not overcome.
They had an edge over Donegal, the myth was that they were bigger and stronger than Donegal and Cassidy has admitted that Armagh bullied them.
Cassidy told the Irish Independent, “They definitely bullied our players, bullied our forwards. We had some fantastic forwards in that period but we just never got any space and time against them.
“Back then you knew what would happen, McEntee would drop back and McGeeney would go free and deliver long diagonal balls.
“It was all very well knowing it but you could never stop it.”Our mentality and work rate changed.
“We always had the players, we just never bought into what was required to be winners. They did.
Cassidy revealed a startling revelation, after a league match in Ballybofey both teams retired to the hotel afterwards, but while Donegal ate, the Armagh side headed downstairs to do a weights session in the gym.
“The whole Armagh team went downstairs to a gym and did a weights session after the game.
“We were just finishing our grub when they were coming up with their protein shakes and what have you.
“That just shows where they were at. It just shows you that they were two or three steps ahead of us.
“We hated playing them. It was just something we couldn’t take. There was this myth that they were just bigger and stronger, that they did things differently, the symbols and all of that.
Cassidy admitted that while they defeated Armagh in the Ulster championship in 2007, it was a steal that day, and that Armagh squad was approaching the end, even though they re-grouped and won an Ulster title again in 2008.
While Armagh are currently perceived to be in a period of transition, they were relegated from Division Two this season, but have enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance under Paul Grimley and Kieran McGeeney in the championship this year.
An All-Ireland quarter-final was unexpected, but they have been impressive and deserve to be there on Saturday.
Nowadays the psyche has changed considerably in Donegal, since Armagh walloped them in 2010, Donegal have landed three Ulster titles and an All-Ireland title.
McGuinness has changed the mentality, and with that change in mentality he has brought success, but Cassidy still worries about Armagh because of the wounds they inflicted to Donegal over the last decade.
Cassidy added, “Who is to say that if the chips are down in the last 10 or 15 minutes that these thoughts (about previous defeats) won’t come back into the heads?
“It’s always there, people will say it’s not there but the longer the games goes on, if Armagh can stick in the game until the last 15 minutes surely those thoughts can surface.
Saturday should be a fascinating match, inevitably both teams will adopt defensive strategies and many are predicting a drab affair, but with a place in an All-Ireland semi-final up for grabs it may rekindle the wars of the early 00’s.