Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Players need protected: Donegal boss McGuinness

Fired-up: Jim McGuinness wants more protection for his side

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness harbours grave concerns that the level of physicality in gaelic football right now could lead to "our players being on the receiving end of something soon that's going to cost everybody a lot of pain."

It's a stark warning precipitated by four cases of concussion which have afflicted the side in the championship to date.

While emphasising that physicality still has a part to play in the sport, McGuinness believes that players' well-being could now be in danger.

And as his team prepare for their All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo on Sunday, a re-run of last year's final, McGuinness is conscious that the Connacht champions have added an extra dimension of steel to their make-up.

Mayo earned the unenviable tag of 'Croker chokers' because of their inability to defend properly and close out matches on their appearances there since the mid-90s.

However, since former player James Horan took over, the side has acquired a much more combative psyche.

Not surprisingly, McGuinness believes that Sunday's game could be another fiercely-contested affair. When the sides met in the league Mayo won by 1-10 to 0-9 but Donegal were far from being at full throttle on that occasion.

Mayo, of course, subsequently waltzed to the Connacht title without ever having to dig too deeply into their repertoire of skills. But McGuinness feels that Horan's men will take fresh confidence into Sunday's game.

"They will have had a two-week break which should stand to them and they will be desperately keen to overturn the result of last year's All-Ireland final so they will certainly not be lacking in motivation," maintains McGuinness.

With Mark McHugh ruled out and doubts surrounding the fitness of at least two other players, the All-Ireland champions' manager will not be able to deal from a full hand for what will be a big test for his side.

McGuinness nonetheless accepts that his players must confront the challenge head-on.

"I don't mind the physical aspect but players should not be put in danger," he points out, "Mayo have obviously improved. We have been relegated from Division One whereas they comfortably retained their place in that tier."