Donegal manager Jim McGuinness is confident his side can rise to the occasion next Sunday. INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Jim McGuinness: 'Every day is a school day, and I have said that all along, we are by no means the finished article'

The coach also says Donegal need to cut out the showboating in their game.

NEXT SUNDAY, DONEGAL face their biggest game since 1992 – the last time they reached an All-Ireland SFC Final.

And while they have performed impressively this year, there remains a considerable amount of pressure on the side, as they bid to emulate the success of their counterparts twenty years ago.

Jim McGuinness, however, is confident his players can live up to the expectations of their supporters, therefore insisting they won’t be affected by the magnitude of the occasion.

“A lot of people draw the line between when we played Cork and they played Dublin and that’s like a line of form through horses and it’s not horses, it’s human beings,” he says. “You’ve got managers and you’ve got coaches who are trying to look at the opposition and look at the weaknesses and look at the strengths and strategise so every single game is different. Last year we played Dublin and it was eight points to six and then you play Cork a year later and score 16 points and people are making that comparison but the next day it could be eight points to seven.”

He continues: “I don’t believe our fellas are going to be apprehensive or nervous. Their focus has always been on task goals and when they work that way they all perform and there’s a synergy between the team.

“I think where you would get nervous would be where you removed yourself from that and you just mentally put yourself in a situation where you thought, ‘This is an All-Ireland final, I’ve never played in an All-Ireland before, I’d love an All-Ireland medal, Jesus the homecoming’s going to be great if we can win it. Can you imagine Donegal town, it’s going to be fantastic and I’ve got my cousin coming from America and that’s going to be great to see him after the game…’”

Similarly, McGuinness rejects the suggestion that Donegal may get distracted, owing to the considerable hype surrounding the game.

“It’s all been about performance,” he says. “They know themselves if they don’t perform that it’s Russian roulette. When you do perform you’ve an opportunity to be competitive so there are lines there and once you cross them it’s a very dangerous thing to do and we haven’t crossed them in the last two years so I’d be very surprised if they crossed them with this one, particularly because the stakes are so high. Now, more than ever, you retain your focus.”

However, the coach admits there is one aspect of his side’s performance that’s of particular concern – their showboating, which was in evidence towards the end of the Cork match.

They were subsequently almost punished for such arrogance, with Cork scoring a late goal, as the pressure intensified on them towards the end of the game. McGuinness was thus understandably not overly pleased with the attitude his players adopted in this instance.

“I would prefer if they were not happening but I probably felt that we deserved that goal to happen to us against Cork. I don’t believe that you can play out three minutes at the end of a game by retaining possession at that level. I believe that at some stage someone is going to get their gander up, they are going to put in a tackle and at some stage that tackle is going to result in a turnover because the referee is not going to have any sympathy on a team that is showboating and retaining possession for the sake of retaining possession and the ball is going to be turned over.

“We probably got what we deserved so it shouldn’t have happened from a coaching point of view but it is good that it happened because it gives us a very clear focus. Every day is a school day, and I have said that all along, we are by no means the finished article. The analysis was very tough on that point after the game because you have to try and be professional about it and it is not part of what we would coach.”

Moreover, McGuinness believes the supporters’ excitement on the day partially caused the players themselves to become complacent, and he explains how his side must be professional amid the jubilant environment this Sunday week.

“You can’t control the crowd and the people from Donegal are on a high at the minute and you can’t control that either. You can’t control the fact that people think we are going to win the All-Ireland and that Mayo haven’t a chance. It’s the same down in Mayo, everyone there thinks that Mayo are going to win the All-Ireland and Donegal haven’t a chance. That is the job of a supporter, almost. For us it is a different job, it is about business, it is about trying to execute our game plan.”

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