BY CHRIS MCNULTY
JIM McGuinness is hopeful that his legacy can live on and that Donegal can keep competing for the top honours.
The former Donegal manager was a special guest at Saturday night’s annual banquet in the Abbey Hotel, where he was the recipient of a special award to mark his achievements with the county.
McGuinness famously took over with Donegal in the depths of despair after exiting the Championship in June following a hammering in the qualifiers by Armagh. However the Glenties man took Donegal to new heights, winning three Ulster titles in four years, bring Sam Maguire back to Donegal in 2012 and reaching another All-Ireland final this year.
McGuinness has revealed that the final defeat in September against Kerry almost saw him change his mind about leaving his position.
“The fact that we didn’t win the final made me think,” said McGuinness, who had lengthy discussions with mentors Paul McGonigle, John Duffy, Damian Diver and Pat Shovelin in the days that followed.
“That’s where the deliberation came from. We all wanted the fairytale ending.
“We did a lot of talking after the final and we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the right thing to go back just because we had lost.
“It’s a decision that I had in my head for a long time and it’s a decision that I’m happy with.”
McGuinness conveyed his decision to the players, backroom team and county board officials late on Friday night, October 3rd via a text message.
The 2012 All-Ireland winning manager believes that Donegal is well poised to stay at the top table in the coming years on the back of the unprecedented success since 2011.
McGuinness said: “I’ll be very surprised if we can’t push on and keep competing at national level for a number of years.
“We have a very good senior team that has just competed in the All-Ireland final and has won the Ulster final. We were in the Under-21 final and we were in the All-Ireland minor final, too. There aren’t a lot of counties that can boast that. It’s similar to Dublin or Kerry at their peak.
“We have a fantastic captain and a fantastic leader in Michael Murphy. He’ll be driving the processes very hard with the players. That gives me great hope. I hope to be around for some of the games and to get to them.
“The future is very bright and I don’t say that lightly; I firmly believe that. We just need to push on as a county. We need to look at our underage structures, how we develop players and our club structures. We need to get more out of the system and keep the thing going.”
McGuinness was twice rejected for the Donegal job when he applied in 2007 and 2008. But for a change of heart when he sought the under-21 job in the winter of 2009, Donegal might never have seen the most glorious period in the history of the Association in the county. McGuinness had been drafted into the Donegal panel of 1992 as an 18-year-old by Brian McEniff, but after the heights of that year he was beaten in subsequent Ulster finals in 1993, 1998, 2000 and 2002.
He said: “It was something I wanted to do all my life (manage Donegal)
“Every coaching job that I ever took was with a view to coaching Donegal. The pain of losing so many provincial finals after being a part of the ‘92 set-up created a burning desire to try and do something.
“My only thing in terms of management when I went into Donegal was just to try and make a difference. We managed to do that over the four years. We didn’t win everything, but as a group there was a real honesty. The principals we laid out on the very first day we carried out to the very last day. It was a great experience and a great journey. We can look in the mirror as players and management and be very happy about that.
“There are no guarantees, but if everybody is on the same wavelength, if everybody is working hard and that honesty is there, it makes it very special. We had that and we became really close. It was a lovely thing to be a part of. It was so worthwhile. The players sacrificed huge amounts, but I’d like to think that they got something out of it too. It was a special journey.”
McGuinness took up a job as a performance consultant with Celtic FC in Glasgow after the 2012 All-Ireland win and while he remained in his role as Donegal boss, he has recently been promoted at Celtic Park and now works solely with the first team under manager Ronnie Deila. On Saturday, McGuinness rushed to Donegal following Celtic’s 1-0 win over Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League. He now attends all of Celtic’s first-team matches in his role as first-team sports psychologist.
“When you study in college and you’re hoping to get a job at the end of it, this is one of the dream jobs that you’d be thinking about,” McGuinness said.
“It’s great to be involved and you’re hoping that you’re adding value and bringing something to the table. It’s a very demanding job and there is a lot of demands on the manager too. It’s a very rewarding job, too. There are a lot of games and it’s like a National League or a Championship game every couple of days. It’s a great experience and I’m really enjoying it. We’re still in all competitions too so we want to prolong that as long as we can.”
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