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Jim McGuinness and Rory Kavanagh aren't on same page when recalling Donegal's story

By Declan Bogue

Published 04/11/2015

Jim McGuinness
Jim McGuinness
Rory Kavanagh

Speaking on the Matt Cooper Show on Today FM on Monday night, former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness was pushed and prodded on a matter that had come to light over the course of that day.

His former assistant manager, Rory Gallagher, had taken issue with some of the assertions within McGuinness' recently-published, ghost-written autobiography 'Until Victory Always' - especially the part where McGuinness insisted that he effectively sacked Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel from his backroom team.

A relevant passage of the book states: "I wanted to draft a statement explaining that I was making changes to the backroom without revealing that the boys had been dropped from the set-up. But while I was at home composing it, reports were circulating that both Rory and Maxi had quit. It made it seem as if everything was falling apart."

Gallagher isn't buying that, however. He hit back in a statement of his own, insisting: "I am comfortable in the knowledge that Donegal County Board officers are aware of the true circumstances of my departure.

"I will say I am disappointed that Jim has chosen to comment on the break-up of the management team at this point. The players, management and backroom team had a very clear understanding that what happened within the group remained within the group."

Cooper did his thing and teased another response out of McGuinness, making the interview less of a PR exercise for book sales.

McGuinness responded in remarkably similar language: "I am very comfortable with the book. The facts of the matter are in the book.

"I don't understand where the ambiguity is, and I don't know where that is coming from. The book is the book, and I am happy with the book."

There is only one logical response to such a scenario - ask why it is so important to McGuinness to be seen as the man who sacked others. Was he desperate for that little victory?

It is in those moments that this otherwise beautifully-written book lapses into Father Ted's Golden Cleric speech - "But eventually, I got out of his headlock, and where are you now, Father Eamon Hunter?"

Ambiguity arises when two people are in a situation but each see it in different terms. It is far more common than any of us might realise.

There is a test called 'The Invisible Gorilla' that shows us how our intuitions can deceive us. It's on YouTube, where the clip asks you to count how many passes of a basketball a team in white make while mixed through a team in black colours.

Midway through the clip, a model in a gorilla suit walks right across the picture. You are asked how many passes the white team made, and if you spotted the gorilla.

I showed it to two people yesterday. One got the exact number of passes but didn't notice the gorilla. The other spotted the gorilla alright, but counted the passes incorrectly.

It was a test devised by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. When they tested it on a group of Harvard students, they found that half of those who counted the passes completely missed the gorilla.

As they wrote in their book of the same name: "This experiment reveals two things; that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much."

It can be applied to numerous discrepancies in the accounts of key football events in Donegal over the past five years in McGuinness' autobiography, and that of Rory Kavanag..

An example is how McGuinness pictured the squad training together. His book says: "Watching the boys eating up sprints and ball drills and seeing the light in their eyes. Seeing how pure and liberating it is for them to be performing and moving like this. Almost… addicted to it."

Kavanagh remembers it in simpler terms, rather less pure and liberating.

His book says: "In small, four-sided games we learned to thump one another like we intended to thump our opponents the next Sunday.

'THUMP HIM… THUMP…

'YOU'VE GOT TO F***ING…

'THUMP HIM!'

"Some nights, that is all I heard, and driving home from training the same orders would be whirling around in my brain."

Another example is the treatment and eventual departure of Mark McHugh from the panel in 2014.

McGuinness recalled: "Mark McHugh wasn't with us now. He decided in May that he wasn't enjoying the game and was spending the summer in the States."

Kavanagh's take speaks for itself. He said: "Mark had not started the league final against Monaghan. He was clearly not very happy and one evening in Castlefin, McGuinness had reared up on him in front of us all over a newspaper interview. It was never nice to be on the receiving end."

They even differ on how a manager should speak to players.

McGuinness said: "We were all lucky to have had people who put time into us when we were kids but the idea of how to coach was different then. Growing up, we would have heard it harsh; 'Don't do this! F***sake! Pass it!'

"No. No. No. We didn't operate like that."

Kavanagh's take reads: "McGuinness was not looking for me to reply to his question at half-time. It was not a conversation.

"'I told you what to do… and you haven't f****** done it, have you? HAVE YOU?

"He was mad as hell."

The trouble is that McGuinness is telling his truth, but as he saw it. Others are inclined to take different things when they are looking at the same events.

He never spotted the Invisible Gorilla.

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