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'I just told him repeatedly that I loved him' - Jim McGuinness recalls family tragedies

The ex-Donegal boss was on the Late Late Show last night.

JIM McGUINNESS WAS a guest on RTÉ’s Late Late Show last night and the former Donegal senior football manager opened up about the deaths of his brothers, Charles and Mark.

In an emotional interview, McGuinness told host Ryan Tubridy about how Charles passed away at the age of 16 as a result of a heart problem. Jim was 12 at the time.

Jim McGuinness Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“It was a moment in your life, Ryan, where you’re going along and your life is going along in a certain direction and then, just all of a sudden, you’re jilted and you’re going in a different direction. In many respects it was like a sledgehammer. I have to say that,” said McGuinness, who won All-Ireland titles with Donegal as both a player and manager.

“I was 12, heading for 13, and you’re never the same person again. And that’s being honest. All of a sudden your life just changes. You’re weak and you’re vulnerable. There’s this sense of freefall and trying to make sense of it. All I wanted to do was make things right for my mother and father, to get it back to what it was.”

McGuinness also explained how a remark from one of Charles’ friends about him being ‘a cert for the county minors’ in the aftermath of his death had a significant impact on his own subsequent success as a footballer.

“I remember them words and I remember staring at the television, and in that moment saying to myself: ‘I’m going to do that. I’m going to do that.’ And in that moment my focus became very, very concentrated and I became very aware of the fact that I didn’t want anybody else in the room to realise what I was thinking.

“From that moment on, that’s how I started living my life. When I would get in from school at twenty to four — we’re just a couple of hundred metres from the school — at quarter to four I’d be running down the road or on the bike and I’d be in the pitch, particularly in the wintertime because you’d only have maybe 45 minutes of light. It just became a big, big part of my life.”

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Following Donegal’s Ulster SFC final defeat to Derry in 1998, 25-year-old Jim McGuinness opted to head to New York for the summer. His brother Mark offered to drive him to the airport, but during the journey their car was hit by a lorry and Mark — who was 27 — was killed.

“Just as the lorry was passing us it came straight across the road and took us out of it. And that was it. We were flung, really, like a matchbox up the road and spun so many times, and the car came to a shudder and a stop. Very quickly you realised that we were in a very, very difficult situation.

“I just told him repeatedly that I loved him. That’s what I told him. It was probably 10 years before I realised or accepted that it happened,” added McGuinness, who’s currently working as a coach with Celtic FC.

His book, ‘Until Victory Always’, went on sale last week.

You can watch the full interview via RTÉ Player by clicking here.

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Paul Dollery

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