Saturday 23 September 2017

Donegal boss Jim McGuinness fears black card 'diving' epidemic

Jim McGuinness, Donegal manager. David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Jim McGuinness, Donegal manager. David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has spoken of his fears of an escalation in diving in this year's championship as a consequence of the black card.

McGuinness has predicted that such simulation will become a major talking point as the stakes get higher across the summer.

Speaking ahead of their opening championship game against Derry on May 25, McGuinness is convinced that attackers will play on the fears of defenders when it comes to contact and make the most of it.

"It is becoming very, very prevalent and that is only going to get worse because when the stakes get really high, players will do anything to win the game," he said.

"I see a lot of flashpoints popping up in the 'Sunday Game' this summer because a fella will have walked to the line feeling hard done by.

"Forwards are thinking now, instead of fearing the defender coming at them, they are thinking, 'How can I use this situation', and that is a big shift."

McGuinness shares the view of his Mayo counterpart James Horan and Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke that players have been afraid to tackle in the league and warns that the sanitisation of the game will lead to a "boring" product.

"The black card has created a fear in defenders, I have no doubt about that. It has enabled teams to be more aggressive in terms of running at opposition defences. It definitely has helped that and it has tidied things up but as a manager or coach going into championship you need to know where you stand and I don't know where we stand with the implementation at the moment.

"I was watching some of the Division 1 games this year and there was hardly a tackle in 35 minutes of football. It was just score, score, score. I need to be careful what I say here, but I think people enjoy physicality in our sport. I think people enjoy seeing a player coming though the middle and a big man coming out on him and the two making significant impact, the ball spilling from it and a fight for the ball ensuing. Whereas if it is a game that is up, down, up down, I think it will become boring.

"We are losing a bit of our indigenous approach as to how we are playing the game. There is more of a soccer dynamic at play now with the cards, and when players go past where they will jump out of the way because they are thinking, 'I can't do that'."

MAULING

McGuinness admits that Donegal may not yet be over the mauling they got from Mayo in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final and that the environment they created over two-and-a-half years was "washed away very quickly".

"We are probably still not over it. Losing a championship game and getting demoralised in a quarter-final is a different ball game," he said.

"The disappointing thing is that we worked unbelievably hard to create an environment in which we could be successful. That was done over two-and-a-half years. For me, that was washed away very quickly. We were in a difficult enough situation with the injuries we had and the other dynamics just pushed us over the line. So as All-Ireland champions, winning it for the second time ever and after a 20-year break, that was difficult to square away in my head. Whether I am at peace with that now doesn't matter, you have to get on with the job at hand."

Donegal will be without the suspended Rory Kavanagh and the departed Mark McHugh, but Neil Gallagher should have recovered from an ankle injury for the Derry game.

He has put the recent departure of McHugh behind him but wondered at the "sensationalist" nature of things that happen in Donegal and how the business of club fixtures in the county has been portrayed.

"This has never been an easy job from day one. It has involved swimming against the tide in some respects, working very hard to achieve things that, in my opinion, if I was managing Galway or somebody else, you would just not be dealing with them. They would not be on the agenda."

McGuinness feels that if Donegal could overcome Derry they would be in a very strong position logistically to regain lost ground. On that count he feels it should be easier for Dublin to retain an All-Ireland title.

"One of the big problems for us is the geography. This year we've people in Belfast, Dublin, Galway and Limerick driving up the road. They're arriving fatigued. Because they're working we're training later, so we start at 8 o'clock and it's 10 o'clock before they're getting a bite to eat. And then they're getting into a car and going to Dublin.

"So that's one, two in the morning. That's a massive commitment. Dublin don't have that problem. We have to fork out €1.75m on a centre of excellence and Dublin get one handed to them, which is handy and which is worth €20m," he said, referring to the proposed GAA unit in Abbotstown that will be open to all counties when it is completed.

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