THE leading candidates to succeed Jim McGuinness as Donegal manager are all keeping their intentions closely-guarded.
Since McGuinness confirmed that he was stepping down from the role on Friday night speculation has been rife around a successor.
Rory Gallagher and Declan Bonner are the early favourites ahead of tonight’s monthly meeting of the Donegal county committee which will see the appointment process get underway. The County Board will appoint a selection committee and outline their plans to delegates at tonight’s meeting in Ballybofey.
McGuinness announced his decision via a group text to the players, backroom team members and the county board late on Friday night. His decision, coming less than two weeks after Donegal’s All-Ireland defeat to Kerry, was made with greater haste than many had anticipated.
The Glenties man guided Donegal to All-Ireland glory in 2012 and win three Ulster senior titles having led the under-21s to Ulster success in 2010 and reaching the All-Ireland final with that group.
His reign in charge was Donegal’s most successful period in history and following him could prove a daunting task.
“They will be hard shoes to fill, but we have to move on and we’ll be starting from a very positive position,” county chairman Sean Dunnion said.
“While we’re disappointed, we respect his decision because he has made such a contribution to Donegal football.
“He has left a tremendous legacy. He took over the county when we were at one of our lowest ebbs and he took us to the greatest success rate in our history.”
Gallagher was McGuinness’s assistant for the first three of his four years in the senior post. His Kilcar team lost 2-8 to 0-5 against St Michael’s in the Championship yesterday.
While his name is being heavily speculated for the job, Gallagher has not yet publicly spoken about the vacancy.
Bonner was the Donegal minor boss in 2014 and guided Donegal to an Ulster Minor League and Championship double before his team became the first from the county to reach the All-Ireland minor final.
Bonner had a previous stint in charge of the Donegal senior team (1997-2000) and was denied an Ulster title in 1998 by Joe Brolly’s late goal for Derry. The Lettermacaward man was non-committal last night.
“I met with my minor management team on Thursday night and we’re in the process of evaluating the year just gone by so we’ll see where that takes us first,” Bonner said.
Such is the level to which Donegal’s stock has risen they will aim to make a top-class appointment and it is not expected that there will be a high level of applicants.
Former Fermanagh manager Peter Canavan and ex-Armagh ace Tony McEntee are two possible candidates should Donegal opt to go ‘outside’ in pursuit of a successor although it is not known if either would be open to taking the role. It is believed that going ‘outside’ would be seen as a last resort by the powers in Donegal.
Boylesports last night reported significant support for Damian Diver, who was quoted as the 9/4 joint favourite with that firm.
Liam Glynn, PR Executive at Boylesports said: “We have seen support for Damien Diver in the past 24 hours which included a €1k bet been laid on Diver at 7/2 in one of our shops in the Northern region.” Martin McHugh is quoted as 5/1 with Boylesports a week after he took over as Sligo IT’s Sigerson Cup manager but the Kilcar man seems unlikely to pursue the Donegal post.
Donegal are also on the look-out for an under-21 manager.
Maxi Curran, currently managing St Eunan’s, has been in that role for the last two campaigns and last night the Downings native confirmed that his hat will be in the under-21 ring again this week when nominations close.
Gary McDaid, who has led Glenswilly to senior championship success twice in three years, said he had not thought about either vacancy. “My main focus is on St Michael’s next Sunday – that’s all I’m thinking about,” he said. “I’m still hoping for a long championship season with Glenswilly.”
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