No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

We must do all we can to keep Jim

Tyrone v Donegal - Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final

SO, Jim McGuinness has said that ‘conditions need to be correct’ before he’ll stay on as manager and the county board has released a statement confirming they want Jim to stay.

There are no surprises with anything that has happened in the last seven days and I think some of the talk has been blown out of proportion at times.

We have seen the problems that have arisen and we have seen and heard of the difficulties at a recent county committee meeting when Jim spoke on the topic of fixtures in his address to delegates after the National Football League.

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By all accounts, there are a few things that need to be sorted out for Jim to stay, top of the agenda being the club fixture schedule.

How many inches have we given to club fixtures in the past? It’s a real hot potato and is something that there isn’t a simple solution for.

I mentioned last week that, maybe, we should look at playing the All-County Football League in its entirety, basically run it off completely before moving on to the Championship whenever Donegal are knocked out of the All-Ireland.

The CCC’s hands are tied, in a way, because the current system was voted in for two years and has next year to run.

It has been mentioned that we could play some Championship early in the season and then wait until Donegal go out before resuming it.

As a club manager that would be nigh on impossible because you’d effectively be getting your team ready for two seasons.

The best thing would be to have a few provisional dates, based upon the longevity of Donegal’s campaign and how far the county team travels.

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It was no surprise that the county board issued a statement saying that they were unanimously in favour of retaining Jim. The whole county wants Jim back!

The work that he has done with Donegal football has been phenomenal and the success of his tenure until now has been remarkable.

This year will be remember as a huge disappointment, but let us not forget the two years previous to it.

We should carefully sit down and examine, in conjunction with Jim and his management team, the possibilities available regarding the scheduling of the club calendar.

We must do everything possible to retain the services of Jim McGuinness. To lose him would be a hammer blow to Donegal football.

Hopefully we can build again – and I think it will be a bit of a building process in terms of getting players in again.

Emigration, it seems, is also going to be a factor with Ryan Bradley and Ross Wherity both heading off. They are two guys who had been on the first 20, with Bradley pretty much an ever-present under Jim in the last three seasons.

He’s off to Abu Dhabi for a three-month period, until Christmas, so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes for him. Ryan is a young married man and has to look to the future.

Ross has gone to New York and, again, his return or otherwise will be dictated by how he gets on in the Big Apple.

It isn’t just members of Jim’s panel that we’re losing these days. This week, two members of his under 21 panel from 2010 have gone – Danny Curran and James Carroll. When we’re thinking about players who could maybe have stepped up to the senior panel they wouldn’t have been far away and, whatever about the county, they’ll be a massive loss for Gaoth Dobhair.

This is probably only the start of the drain – I really fear for the constant drip of players laving these shores. Hopefully there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but for the moment it remains in darkness.

ARE MAYO FINALLY READY TO BURY THE DEMONS?

TYRONE headed for Croke Park last weekend armed with a well-choreographed game plan, but they were unfortunate to lose three of their big names in the first half to injury: Peter Harte, Stephen O’Neill and Joe McMahon.

They are probably Tyrone’s three most influential players, outside of Sean Cavanagh.

Tyrone were doing extremely well, but you could just sense that Mayo were the much happier side going in at the break. You just felt with Mayo coming back before half-time that they’d be hard kept out in the second half and so it proved.

Mayo were deserving victors and, in a way, this was more impressive than their demolision of Donegal in the quarter-final because they were asked the serious questions by Tyrone and they had the answers.

Chris Barrett got forward for a couple of excellent scores in the first half and Lee Keegan contributed a lot going forward too.

If you look at the tempate tha Jim McGuinness developed in terms of attack-minded half-backs getting on the scoreboard, Mayo’s template is now loosly based on that.

Against Donegal, Donal Vaughan was pretty close to being man of the match from centre half-back. He had such a positive influence on that game.

Are Mayo good enough to win an All-Ireland? On the evidence of the first 20 or 25 minutes, no. They cannot go into a game against Dublin or Kerry like that or the game could be over for them, as it was last year against Donegal. Mayo have had their warning now, though, and they do look like a side that’s destined for it.

But this is Mayo – who haven’t won since ‘51. An injury to Cillian O’Connor’s shoulder has put him as a grave doubt for the All-Ireland final. The doubts could be beginning already out west…

CAN KERRY STUN THE DUBS?

DUBLIN versus Kerry: It’s the glamour tie in the GAA, the box office gig that gets the mercury rising.

These sides have had some battles of legend down the years, from the heady days of Micko and Heffo in the 70s, to Pat Gilroy’s ‘startles earwigs’ to Stephen Cluxton’s ice-cool free in the All-Ireland final two years ago.

They’re the big forces in Gaelic Football and are two counties we can always rely on to be in the big house come the autumn.

Dublin’s record against the Kingdom is not good, but they won’t be fazed by playing Kerry.

At the same time, one thing that Kerry aren’t afraid of is going to Croke Park to play the Dubs. If anything, they’ll thrive by staring into the pupils of Hill 16.

Kerry have some of the genuine greats of the game in ‘Gooch’, Galvin, Ó Sé and it wouldn’t surprise me if Kieran Donaghy starts on Sunday. He has troubled Dublin before and his form has been patchy, but this is Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final.

It’s probably fair to suggest that it’s a last cast of the die for some of these Kerry players – that in itself could be a telling factor on Sunday.

Dublin have been energised by the likes of the flying Jack McCaffrey, but will he get the same allowance on Sunday as he has got in previous games? That’s doubtful.

Darran O’Sullivan should be able to put him on the back foot and that’s one way of keeping him busy.

Still, lot of things need to fall into place for Kerry and will need their top men at the top of their game.

They’re in with a chance, of course, but you just couldn’t back against the Dubs here.

BLOW THE WHISTLE ON INCONSISTENCY

I thought Maurice Deegan had a very poor game on Sunday. It was a poor and inconsistent performance. It’s not the first time we have raised this issue with referees and sometimes you think you’re looking at different sports when you see the way some of them are interpreting the rules of the game.

It was the same in the National League the day Donegal played Dublin. Padraig Hughes got injured and had been doing pretty well. Michael Duffy replaced him and, all of a sudden, he was the talk of the town.

Consistency needs to be looked at – and we shouldn’t be left with the situation they have in rugby where they’re looking every well now about how a certain referee interprets rules.

The standard of refereeing hasn’t been good or even near a high level.

NO MINOR MATTER

WE had a good day on Saturday with the Donegal Under 17s as we won the Jim McGuigan Cup tournament up in Maghera. We were up against Monaghan and Tyrone teams who were short players that were with their minors but, in saying that, our lads acquitted themselves well and deserved to come out on top.

Hopefully the good work continues and hopefully we can take the recent success into the minors.

There is a lot of work needed, but a lot of work will be done. It’s crazy, though, that the months of December, January and February are closed months for minors – and we start the Minor League in March. It’s madness, actually.

Have you a comment to make on any of the above or would you like Declan to raise an issue in this column? Get in touch by email d.bonner@donegalnews.com

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