Donegal manager Jim McGuinness reached the pinnacle of his own sporting Everest yesterday — but a different kind of pique made our correspondent the fall guy.
Celebrations and jubilations were put on hold as McGuinness rounded on my Belfast Telegraph colleague Declan Bogue.
While a voracious media pack sought eagerly to dine on what they presumed would be a lavish helping of prose from the normally loquacious McGuinness, they were instead met with a defensive wall as solid as that which his side had erected for the previous 70 minutes.
McGuinness, it seemed, was unhappy to have the highly-respected Bogue record his reaction to the biggest day in his sporting life, intimating that the Press conference would not start until he had left the room.
And it appears that the reason for this is that he still harbours resentment and indeed anger following revelations attributed to former player Kevin Cassidy which were published in Bogue’s hugely successful book ‘This is our Year’ published late last year.
The euphoria created on one of the greatest days in Donegal’s sporting history was not to prevent McGuinness from once again shooting from the hip in relation to what he still views as the breaking of his cherished omerta code by Cassidy with Bogue very much in the firing line.
“Once things are printed in the media, it’s out there. Doesn’t matter if he turns around and 24 hours or three weeks or three months later and apologises,” declared a clearly irate McGuinness.
“The people who read it have made their mind up. The people who read that document have a concept in their head about me and personal issues with me and certain situations with my players that cannot be changed.
“That’s why I held my court. That’s the bottom line on it. I’m not going to be saying one thing and do another.”
It was some minutes before ‘normality’ was restored to what should have been a warm, joyous occasion and when it did, McGuinness was typically forthcoming in pinpointing what he felt were the reasons for his county taking another giant stride into the history books. This only, too, after Bogue had left the room.
“The pressure only eased up when the final whistle sounded but the scenes of celebration out on the pitch among the boys will remain with me forever,” declared a more animated McGuinness.
“You could see the photographers coming in around you and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘the game’s still in the melting pot here’. So it was really on the final whistle that the thing becomes a reality, it’s just a fantastic feeling.
“But the scenes out there were fantastic, unbelievable. It has been a long, hard road for these boys but they have come through well and deserve everything they have got now.”
“We kept going right to the end as we have always done and came out on the right side.”
And McGuinness hailed his team’s consistency since the start of 2012.
“Our performance level hasn’t really dipped all year, which is testimony to the lads. They’ve stayed very focused.”
He also paid a handsome tribute to his No 2 Rory Gallagher, who is now recognised very much as a coaching authority in his own right.
“Rory sees things happen and he has played a big part in this success.
“I am just delighted for everyone involved with the team and particularly the players for the huge effort they have put in and their dedication to the cause,” he added.
He paid tribute to Mayo, insisting that the manner in which they had stayed in touch right up until the end had shown just how good a side they are.