BY CHRIS MCNULTY
ALL-IRELAND fever has gripped Donegal this week, since Sunday’s enthralling semi-final win over Cork – but Jim McGuinness has reiterated September 23rd’s calling of destiny is no different for his squad than any of the steps they’ve been on all summer.
Donegal’s march to the All-Ireland final saw an outpouring of emotion at Croke Park on Sunday as 40,000 jubilant supporters toasted again the rise of this great team.
One question that has been posed since is how the hype will effect the squad – but Jim McGuinness brought them back off cloud 9 at training on Tuesday night in Ballybofey and the Tir Chonaill boss will stick to the tried and trusted over the next three weeks that will see the mania sweep the county.
“This is no different to any other game,” McGuinness told the Donegal News this week This happens to be the final, but we will treat this no differently to any other situation that we have faced this year.
“Our sharp focus has turned now to the final and we’ll leave no stone unturned in trying to win it.
“We had a good hour and 20 minutes of a session on Tuesday night and we’re aiming now to build for the final. We’re trying to deliver and make something special happen for Donegal. The key is our preparation.
“It is great to be where we are now and we’re all looking forward to a great month ahead.”
Quite a few niggles were reported at Sean MacCumhaill Park on Tuesday night when the squad gathered again, but McGuinness said that there were no worries.
“We had 20 players on the pitch, so that was good and it was only natural that players were coming in a wee bit sore,” he said.
Frank McGlynn and Patrick McBrearty came off with knocks late on, but neither was said to be in any danger. “It was good that we had no major injuries arising out of the game on Sunday and there shouldn’t be anyone under any pressure for the final,” said McGuinness.
“It was very hot on Sunday and it was so intense, so there was a lot of cramp.”
McGuinness has confirmed that the squad will hold an open training session on Saturday week, September 8th, in Sean MacCumhaill Park.
Supporters will be admitted to watch the training and to have photographs taken and mingle with the players and management. There may be a second open session, but this has yet to be confirmed.
McGuinness has embraced the idea of next weekend’s open session, but has appealed for supporters to give his players space over the next three weeks.
He said: “The players must be allowed to concentrate on the job at hand – and that is preparing for the All-Ireland final.”
Dublin and Mayo cross swords in the second semi-final this Sunday at Croke Park for the right to meet Donegal in the final. McGuinness and Rory Gallagher will be in Croke Park to run the rule over their opponents and the Donegal chief says that he can already feel the final vibes in Donegal.
He said: “It has been fantastic. The feel-good factor has been unbelievable. It is great for the people of Donegal to get an opportunity to look forward to an All-Ireland final again.”
Meanwhile, several of his players are in All-County League action this weekend for their clubs and the manager is keeping his fingers crossed that all will report fit and healthy on Sunday evening.