JIM MCGUINNESS WILL see his Donegal side run out at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon for the county’s first All-Ireland final in two decades.
And though bringing Sam Maguire back to the north-west would be an historic achievement, McGuinness admits he gets satisfaction from any final win.
“Everything I have ever won in my life has meant a huge amount to me,” he says. “Like, our club won an intermediate championship, which would not mean a lot of things to people in this room but that means everything to me because it was an achievement, it was the first championship our club had ever won.
“It was the same when we won the senior championship, the Sigerson, they are all part of your football career, they are all very precious things.
“The best experience I ever had coaching was in Limavady College when there was no Gaelic football team when I went up there and I had to try and get a team together, and we won the league in the first year, won a championship in the second year and there was a young lad that never played the game before and he came on in the final in the second year for about five minutes and he won the ball, dropped the ball. Then a couple of minutes after that he won the ball again, slipped it to someone else who kicked it over the bar. That was the best buzz I ever got out of football coaching, because this young fella never set foot on a pitch before and all of a sudden, on a very small level, he was part of a winning team and his face, and his team-mates face looking at him, was absolutely unbelievable after the game.
“Things like that there, it is not all about the pomp of it. It is a huge game, it is the All-Ireland final but it is those small things… sometimes you see things at training and you think that you are in a very privileged position.”
McGuinness’s mono-maniacal drive for success with his native county over the past couple of seasons has been well documented but the Naomh Conaill clubman admits the workload of a young intercounty manager takes its toll.
“It is a demanding job now and to try and be freed up to do it to the best of your ability, you need people giving you that opportunity and sometimes it is not that easy walking out the door when you have three kids under five, four nights a week. You are questioning yourself sometimes, particularly when it’s not going well but you just hope that days like Ulster finals and All-Ireland finals can balance that whole thing.
“It’s more than 40 hours a week. And that doesn’t matter if you are in an All-Ireland final or with a Division 4 team, it’s the same hours I would imagine. You have to be interacting with the players, the support team. Donegal is a big county, it takes us an hour to get to training, you are there an hour before training. We normally train for two hours, contrary to the press, not six. You have an hour after training and an hour home, so that’s six hours and that’s four nights a week.
“And me and Rory would be on the phone at least an hour every day, then you’ve got your one to ones with players, then you are going watching games and watching club games. It could be anything.”
He continued: “Football is my life I wouldn’t change a minute of it and I have a great support system at home that allows me to do that. I hate saying 40 hours because it sounds like a job type thing, it’s not. It’s a passion. I went for the job three times for good reason, I believed I could do something with the players and I believed the players were there. That’s what’s driving me. We are in a final now and if we could get over the line I would be absolutely delighted for them. Because nobody can take it away from them, we are very close now and we just have to try see the thing through.”