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Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness: Myself and Rory Gallagher don't speak

By Declan Bogue

Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has re-opened an old wound with his account of how he and the current incumbent Rory Gallagher parted ways at the end of the 2013 season.

It appears in McGuinness's autobiography 'Until Victory Always', which was launched last night at the Highland Hotel in his home village of Glenties. Within the pages he offers a fascinating character study of a coach and his family, but it is the passages of how he deals with conflict that are sure to grab much of the ensuing fall-out.

After Donegal's disastrous defence of their All-Ireland and Ulster titles in 2013 -with McGuinness apportioning a healthy slice of blame at the door of the county board with their fixture-scheduling - he reveals how his relationship with his former selector soured to the point that they do not speak any more.

Explaining the relationship, McGuinness notes: "Over the first couple of seasons, we used to hash things out on the phone. We would talk for hours about tactics or about players and where to use them. Both our opinions counted and sometimes I would end up shifting my viewpoint and sometimes he would…but over this season I felt our conversations were becoming more fractious… it weakened the bond between us.

"I decided that if I were to continue, I had to assume absolute control… When I met him, he was hesitant about that proposal. He asked me if he could think about it. I said to him that I didn't know why he needed to think about anything: he hadn't had to think about it when I asked him two years ago and when nobody knew him as a coach. So why now?"

After considering his position, McGuinness then added that he called Gallagher and other backroom members Maxi Curran and Francie Friel, thanking them for their time but ultimately dismissing them.

He writes that he was in the middle of drafting a statement to be sent out through the county board: "But while I was at home composing it, reports were circulating that both Rory and Maxi had quit. It made it seem like everything was falling apart

"What should have remained a private meeting had degenerated into a public event. By midnight, Rory was still arguing that he had quit and was refusing to concede that he had been let go. It was a farcical and sad way to end three years of working together.

"… But the division between us became permanent that day. We haven't spoken since the phone call."

Another topic sure to rouse much interest is his dismissal of former team mate Kevin Cassidy, who won his second All-Star for his performances in the 2011 season, but was cut adrift from the panel by McGuinness for co-operating on a book on all the teams in Ulster over the course of that season.

Taking the reader into his perspective at a subsequent show-down at the Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny, McGuinness gives his views.

"Saying again and again that this compromises everything we had been about all year. This broke the trust within the group. There is no acknowledgement from Kevin and then Rory… saying, 'Hold on, are you sure?' Rory wants this resolved. There is a line between keeping your core values and holding on to your best players. No other way to go."

He adds: "A horrible moment, very heavy and very grave. Nothing to do with personality. It would have been the same if it had been any other player. But Cass is a big player. Who wants to lose a player like that?

"This is November. There is nothing happening. This will catch fire. Axing a senior player, a former team mate, an All-Star. For giving interviews for a book. It still broke what we held sacred."

Elsewhere, he addresses a curious development just prior to their 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Kildare, and their then manager, now Armagh manager, Kieran McGeeney.

"A journalist phoned to say that a Kildare selector had contacted his newspaper to make comments about Donegal's cynical fouling.

"The Kildare view was that if the game was properly refereed, they would have a chance.

"I was really dismayed that Kildare had gone to the newspapers the day before the match. I felt it was bad form and didn't think it was typical of Kieran."

Further criticism is reserved for members of the Donegal county board, who he felt were happy to see his side fail in 2013, and he launches a stout defence of their tactical approach, especially that radical encounter against Dublin in the 2011 semi-final.

"I was vaguely aware that there was a degree of unease and even hostility about the way we had presented ourselves against Dublin. Some people felt it had made an abomination of the game and weren't shy in saying it.

"What some former footballers thought about it didn't matter to me. We hadn't broken any rules - our disciplinary record was excellent. We hadn't sent our players out to hurt any opposition player. All we had done was come up with a plan to try and put our county in an All-Ireland final."

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