Different views, same objectives
Rival rookie bosses take contrasting positions in hunt for glory
SIDELINE or stand seat? Take your pick if you're an inter-county manager.
Tomorrow at Croke Park, rival managers Jim McGuinness of Donegal and Justin McNulty of Laois will have different perspectives on the action in the Allianz Football League Division 2 final.
McGuinness will opt for a ground level, sideline view close to his players, while McNulty continues his practice of sitting in the stand.
Mind you, given that managers who fall foul of disciplinary committees are usually banished from the sideline into the seated areas, I don't know what they'll do with McNulty if he ever requires censure by the GAA authorities. Perhaps they could force him to go down to the sideline?
They may have contrasting views on how best to operate on match days, but the objective of McGuinness and McNulty is to capture some silverware and send their teams into championship action with a spring in their step.
Armagh native McNulty relishes the prospect of a Croke Park appearance, but took time out to explain his views on his seating arrangements for games.
"It's a question of getting a better view of what's happening on the pitch and seeing from a different angle," he said.
"Essentially, it's a question of once the players go on the pitch they've got to be responsible for their performance. It's not about the management once the players go on pitch."
McGuinness favours the more traditional sideline view.
"From my perspective, I'm only in the door and getting to know the players and vice-versa.
"When you're in that process and in the very early stages of development -- we're giving them a lot of instructions -- you're hoping that message will get through to them, and the closer you get to the action if you're trying to change things, the better.
"That's the reason I'm on the sideline. It's something I've always done and I wouldn't imagine I'd change it," said McGuinness.
On the pitch tomorrow, the contest promises to be a fascinating struggle for supremacy -- with two managers in their first year in charge at senior level.
McNulty is enjoying the experience, and said: "It has been a little bit of a shock.
"I suppose I had a bit of an apprenticeship last year with Paddy O'Rourke as his assistant (in Armagh).
"That was a huge learning curve, being involved with my own county. It was a very enjoyable process too.
"To come into the No 1 position, it is a position that I am very comfortable in. I am still learning, I am very much a managerial novice.
"I don't have all the answers, but with every week that goes by, every performance, I feel very lucky and privileged to be in the position of inter-county team manager.
"I am humbled by the fact that the Laois County Board took a bit of a stand and put their neck on the line by appointing me as manager when I had no real inter-county experience. It is something that I am very, very grateful for."
Two weeks ago Donegal went to Portlaoise unbeaten and emerged with pride dented as Laois -- with MJ Tierney in devastating form -- took the points which ultimately secured promotion for McNulty's side and their place in the final.
The Laois manager is wary of a backlash from Donegal tomorrow.
"We are absolutely in bonus territory but at the same time it is a final, and no matter what anyone says, it is a final that is there to be won," he said.
"Both Donegal and Laois will be going all guns blazing in an attempt to win this game.
"Donegal are coming with a major axe to grind. They will feel that they did not do themselves any justice in O'Moore Park last Sunday week, and they may feel that they left something behind.
"So for us, motivation is going to be tougher, but there are a whole new set of circumstances at play here.
"It is Croke Park, it's a final day, a new match, and a new situation."
Success tomorrow would mean bringing Laois their first big trophy since the 2003 Leinster championship victory, but McGuinness is plotting to derail their ambitions.
His first concern is the physical prowess Laois bring to their game, as they showed Donegal in their last meeting.
"In relation to the actual teams at the minute, there would be a few differences there, especially in the middle of the park," he said.
"They are very, very big in the middle of the park, and very physical there.
"From the outside looking in, just giving my opinion, he (McNulty) has gone for very strong players.
"I can see where Justin is coming from in that, they are very big, they are very strong and they are very direct.
"The last day we struggled with their physicality when they were going straight at us. That is something that we will have to try and deal with because they aren't going to get any smaller in the meantime.
"There are a good few challenges that we will have to try and deal with if we are going to be able to compete with them.
"They are very hungry and they showed that the last day."
Colm Begley has been chosen as skipper for Laois on the day, as McNulty continues his rotation policy on the captaincy.
Donegal's young captain Michael Murphy has received treatment for a leg injury but is expected to play.