BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL manager Jim McGuinness believes that his All-Ireland champions have yet to peak.
In a chilling message to the challengers to their crown in 2013 he says that his team has the potential to improve by 35-40 percent yet.
With two Ulster titles bagged in a row and the Sam Maguire won in September, Donegal have become the talk of the town. Following his recent appointment at Celtic FC as a Performance Consultant, McGuinness has been in the glare of the media spotlight himself.
The Donegal manager has said that walking away from his Donegal group wasn’t an option – especially with so much more to come.
“It would be wile hard to walk away from that when you feel that (a) you’ve created something special and (b) I would feel that we’re at 60 to 65 per cent of what we can be as a group because they’re all learning,” McGuinness said.
“Even the All-Ireland final was a huge learning experience for them. They deviated away from what we were talking about beforehand. Was that the pressure of the All-Ireland final? Was it the crowd? Was it the atmosphere? I don’t know, but I do know that we were lucky enough to win the game and still get that experience.
“I don’t think we’ve done well in certain games. The Cork game was our best performance and we dropped off then. They’re still young and they’re still learning.
“Even Michael (Murphy), the captain of the team, he’s only 23 years of age and he’s still learning and growing all of the time.”
The thought that Donegal have swept the boards despite only playing at two thirds of their potential is a notion to shudder some of his peers and now getting his team up another notch is now the next challenge for McGuinness – who seems to be relishing the task.
Speaking from New York, where he was with the All-Star tour, McGuinness said: “Do you know a team that’s operating at 100 per cent? There is 35 per cent out there. But can we get 20 per cent of that in the other areas we’re looking for? Can you retain the good work you have done defensively and can you retain the good work you have done offensively.”
Retaining Sam Maguire has not crossed McGuinness’s mind either. For him, the opening Ulster Championship game against Tyrone is all that is concerning the All-Ireland winning manager.
He said: “There are a lot of people talking about retaining the title and that sort of stuff. For me, that is not even part of the rhetoric. It’s completely irrelevant. For us, it has never been that way.
“For us, a huge focus is now on Tyrone in the first round of the Championship. Everything else is in the backdrop. It’s just about that game for us.”
Gavin Browne says hurling was the only sport that came into the equation when he was growing up in...