Donegal strength thrills Jim McGuinness
This time last year, Jim McGuinness appeared to be merely going through the motions in his role as Donegal boss.
The Allianz Football League, it seemed, was nothing more than an irritant. To all intents and purposes, McGuinness had bigger fish to fry – like ensuring that his county made it a hat-trick of Ulster titles and retained their Ulster crown.
That was the theory – the reality proved starkly different.
Donegal suffered relegation in the league, were humbled by Monaghan in the Ulster final and were subsequently annihilated by Mayo when they clashed in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
McGuinness has been licking his wounds since then but today he is a rather different animal, strongly focused, fully committed and fiercely ambitious once again.
His team's demolition jobs on Laois, Galway and Monaghan have propelled them to top spot in Division Two and strongly suggest that a return to Division One is imminent.
McGuinness permits himself a wry smile when he recalls the start of his team's slide last year but it does not conceal the renewed fervour that now clearly engulfs him.
"When Dublin kicked the last point in the last minute to relegate us, I wasn't overly happy," says McGuinness.
"But our goal for this league is to bring the likes of Christy Toye, Neil Gallagher and David Walsh on. We need these players back on board.
"Things can change very quickly if we get a few injuries. But we're in a good position now in terms of the squad and recent performances.
"We just need to manage it right from here on."
Monaghan travelled to Letterkenny on Sunday boosted by their recent handsome win over Meath but when Odhran MacNiallais and Colm McFadden banged in goals in the opening minutes, the Farney county's goose was cooked.
While the capture of two further points pleased McGuinness, he was equally happy about the performance of his substitutes when called upon.
"We were able to bring on Paddy McGrath, Declan Walsh and Neil Gallagher and they showed that they are well on the way to full match fitness once again," said the Donegal boss afterwards.