Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Jim McGuinness: Ulster final win best moment

Glory boys: Donegal's Dermot Molloy, Martin O'Reilly and Paddy McGrath celebrate
Glory boys: Donegal's Dermot Molloy, Martin O'Reilly and Paddy McGrath celebrate

Provincial titles are not easy to come about and in fairness to Donegal they partied at the end as if this was their first.

Their reaction at the final whistle, and that of their huge support in a sell-out crowd of 31,912, tells us that the Anglo-Celt Cup still has plenty of allure.

In the tunnel afterwards, victorious manager Jim McGuinness hailed it as their best-ever win. High praise indeed for a team that had beaten Kerry, Cork and Mayo on their way to an All-Ireland in 2012.

"I think it's the best victory we've hard because we were really questioned, we were absolutely wrote off a week out from the Derry match and we're Ulster champions today," McGuinness said.

"We were demoralized in Croke Park in the quarter-final last year. So to go from that point to put in a performance ... "

In case the reporters didn't catch it right, the question was rephrased. Better than Sam?

"I think it's our best victory because of the circumstances and because what surrounded it," he said.

We went into the All-Ireland final after winning Ulster, beating Kerry and beating Cork and we won our All-Ireland.

This was a situation where the boys were being questioned and there's only one way to sort out them answers and that's out on the pitch. That's what they did and that's the most pleasing thing."

He continued in similar vein. "People were asking questions and they had to answer them questions.

"If your character is questioned, it's a very important thing to any person in any walk of life.

"The character was questioned and there's only one way to sort that out, and that's to go back and try to win your province again.

"When we started training in the depth of winter, today was a long way away.

"I understand that for players who have been around the block.

"They have to go back and do it, and they're to put their heads down and they've got to believe they're still good enough and they still have to get over the line.

"That's the part I'm very proud of them on and that's why it's probably our best performance. They played today as if they were not going to be beat, and that's what's pleasing."

He also maintained that what had happened in the league final defeat to Monaghan in Croke Park had not affected the group, adding cryptically: "Tactically, there were four or five things that we were working on that we didn't bring to the league final that we held for today. That wasn't easy, biting your lip on the sideline when that's going on. But you've got to look at the big picture and the bigger picture was today and that's the way we approached the game."

Last year McGuinness left the ground with no regrets and no complaints. A week later, he made a few comments about the dangers of physicality after Mark McHugh was kept out of the next game against Laois.

He referenced that battle when he said: "It was a physical game. We dealt with the physicality a lot better. We were smarter and more intelligent on the ball than we were last year.

"We made it easy for Monaghan last year in many respects. It was important to get that right coming into the game. I thought that our players, the people given the man-marking jobs, did really well."

This time 12 months ago, Malachy O'Rourke deflected praise onto his Monaghan players. Here, he greeted defeat as a collective.

"Overall, I don't think we played well enough on the day to win the game and we just hold up our hands and have to accept that," he commented.

"It's very disappointing on the day because I know the work the players have put in, but there is great character in that dressing room. We will be determined to accept that on the day and redouble our efforts from here on."

O'Rourke appeared to have the match-ups pretty well off, with a repeat of Vincent Corey shunting Michael Murphy to the fringes of the game and Drew Wylie again nullifying Colm McFadden.

And after they grabbed their unexpected goal they had a chance to go level, but Paul Finlay hooked a chance wide. They never pushed on as O'Rourke would have liked.

"The goal got us right back in the game and we wanted to push on at that stage and take the opportunity. But, in fairness to Donegal, they got the next few points and gave themselves that cushion. And, as I've said before, it's very difficult playing Donegal.

"They suck you in and if you don't make up the ground they keep adding on scores and that's the way the game went. It wasn't our day."

Sure wasn't.

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