Off the Air

Charlie Collins

Good news and Championship shocks

There was good news at the weekend with confirmation that Jim McGuinness had decided to remain on as Donegal Senior Football team manager while, on the pitch, the 2013 Club Championship continued to throw up shock results which leaves us with an interesting and unexpected semi final line-up. 

Before I talk about Jim’s decision to stay, news had just broken that three of his backroom team - including assistant manager Rory Gallagher - had stepped down from their positions. Other reports suggested that Jim had decided to make changes to his management team. Whether they had stepped down or were pushed wasn’t exactly clear so we’ll leave it at that for the time being.

Let’s deal with Jim’s decision to stay. I suggested a few weeks ago that if he was to stay on for a fourth year it would have to be on his terms and because he wanted to stay not because he felt he had to. 

It was clear from the outset of the process that Jim had decided that certain matters had be to be resolved before he could make up his mind. The most important of those was the scheduling of the Donegal club championship in 2014.

In his mind this year’s club championship had a negative effect on him, his backroom team and players in their bid to defend their Ulster and All-Ireland titles.

There appeared to be two issues. Lack of preparation time and the number of injuries picked up by county panellists who were faced by trying to serve two masters -club and county. This is something which has been an issue for a number of years but this year a line had been drawn in the sand and the matter had to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Therein lies the problem because it’s never see to solve something so complex to everyone’s total satisfaction. Therefore the only solution was to try and find a way to accommodate both clubs and county alike.

Following defeats to Monaghan and Mayo Jim decided that it was as good a time as any to put the issue onto the agenda and make a ruling - one way or the other.
While it may not have suited some people to face up to the problem in certainly focussed minds on the subject that, all to often in the past, had been discussed but never sorted.

Lets look at some of the facts Jim presented. For example, county players were asked to play nine championship games over an 11 week period this summer and it’s hard to present a counter argument against such figures. Players looked tired and flat with some people suggesting that they had been over trained in the build up to the Monaghan game.

Things will be different though in 2014 with all clubs agreeing to defer the start of the Intermediate and Senior Club Championship until after Donegal’s interest ends in the All-Ireland series.

As a result, Jim has decided to stay on and, seemingly, he had the commitment of his entire squad that had he stayed they too would stay on. The County Board officials involved in the process deserve credit for getting the issue resolved; clubs also deserve credit for being able to sell it to their members. All in all a good outcome to a tricky few weeks of talking and listening. Well done to all involved.

While Jim’s decision to stay was expected to get top billing in the papers, events on the pitch last weekend also demanded some big headlines.
On Saturday night Malin beating reigning champions St Eunan’s by eight points to reach their first ever county senior semi final. It was a brilliant performance and super result for the North Inishowen men.

Later that same evening Killybegs, without a league win all year, overcame MacCumhaills to set to set a semi-final meeting with Malin.

On Sunday, Glenswilly won the big game of the weekend, beating Kilcar in a low scoring contest and they now play Ardara who beat a fancied Gaoth Dobhair team by double scores in Letterkenny.

What odds would have been given on a Malin v Killybegs and Glenswilly v Ardara semi final when they draw for the groups stages was first made? It makes for a fascinating last four with, despite what they might say, 2011 champions Glenswilly now installed as firm favourites to win the Dr Maguire Cup.
It’s great for the game that there has been a number of new and unexpected twists this year. Perhaps they may be a few more to come over the next six weeks.

<strong>Trap gone, now what?</strong></p>
<p>Last week I wrote that the Republic of Ireland might be looking for a new manager by the time the column was read and so it came to pass. I was never a fan of Giovanni Trapattoni and his negative style of play which meant that watching our country play was a test of will rather than the joy and excitement it should have been.<br />
Okay, there were a few positives along the way but his negative approach to the 2012 Euro finals and the World Cup qualifiers were a true reflection of Trap’s time as Irish manager.<br />
It was interesting to read some of the player’s comments since he stepped down. You got the sense that they weren’t too excited about the game plan they were forced to play. Anyway. he’s gone now and the big question is who will replace him.</p>
<p>Martin O’Neill appears to be the early favourite but I wonder if it’s the right job for him. If he was currently employed would there be such a rush to give him the job? He’s only favourite because he’s out of a job and is seemingly available. I’ve no doubt that he would bring passion to the job but I’m not so sure that he has what it takes to get us to the next level which, in Ireland’ case, is qualification for the 2016 Euro finals or, more realistically, the 2018 World Cup finals. </p><div class='code-block code-block-9' style='margin: 8px 0; clear: both;'>
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Trap’s last two games, against Austria and Sweden, show us where we’re at at present. Two points from a possible twelve against two teams who were beatable is a poor return and unless we can improve on that it doesn’t really matter who takes over.

Martin O’Neill did well in his early career in the lower divisions and with Leicester City while he also enjoyed good times with Celtic. His last two jobs however, at Aston Villa and Sunderland, were less successful. Has he got what it takes to move Ireland onto t he next level? Given what we’ve had to endure over the past five years anything would be an improvement.