Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

McGuinness has earned another chance to get Donegal back to very top

By Joe Kernan

The wheels certainly came off the Donegal wagon in dramatic fashion on Sunday.

The reigning All-Ireland champions were pummelled into submission after just 15 minutes of a one-sided quarter-final against Mayo and had it been a boxing contest the referee would surely have called a premature halt to the proceedings to spare them further punishment.

A clearly devastated Jim McGuinness was left perplexed by his team's inability to produce any level of fighting spirit or intensity in a game which was nothing short of an embarrassment for the north west outfit.

But while the critics have been having a field day at Donegal's expense, I prefer to dwell on the overall progress that the team has made under McGuinness to date.

Two Ulster titles and an All-Ireland crown within three years for a side which had been heading for the scrapyard – or so we were told – represents a rich haul of success by any standards.

It may have been 20 years since Donegal last won the All-Ireland crown but ask any Ulster county, with the possible exception of Tyrone, if they would settle for the Sam Maguire Cup every 20 years and I think you will discover that the answer would be in the affirmative.

For the most part this year, McGuinness found himself working with a patched-up squad – "managing a situation," as he put it.

It was not the best platform from which to be attempting to launch a push for glory but obviously both he and assistant Rory Gallagher clung to the hope that things might improve as they moved along.

But injuries to key players like Mark McHugh and Karl Lacey, the fact that others such as Ryan Bradley, Leo McLoone, Frank McGlynn and Anthony Thompson were out of sorts for the most part and an over-reliance on Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden to conjure up scores contributed to their fall from grace.

Yet last year Donegal played sparkling football and as an Ulsterman I was delighted to see them collect the Sam Maguire Cup.

Even when they adopted a casual approach to this year's league, I thought that by the time the championship came round they would be up to speed.

But this did not prove to be the case. They may well have experienced difficulty in managing success and that can sometimes prove as difficult as coping with failure.

I hope that McGuinness remains in charge because he is a fine manager who has left an indelible imprint on the GAA landscape since succeeding John Joe Cunningham.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph