Lacey insists Donegal camp has 'huge belief' in insatiable McGuinness
Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30
Jim McGuinness was never in danger of losing the loyalty and commitment of the Donegal players after last year's disappointing defence of the All-Ireland football title they won in 2012.
Four-time All Star Karl Lacey spoke yesterday of the immense debt the county owes to McGuinness for Donegal's achievements in the last few years.
And although the defence of Ulster and the Sam Maguire Cup didn't go to plan in 2013, there was not much chance of the Tir Chonaill players baulking at another year of McGuinness' method.
Donegal players have shed blood, sweat and tears on the training pitch and in football matches under the single-minded direction of McGuinness for almost four years.
In many ways, players are selfish creatures, and who can blame them? The most important focus has to be on their own fitness, their own place in the team or squad, their own ambition and morale.
That's why Lacey has applauded the commitment and qualities of McGuinness. Being a 'facilitator' may be the way the Donegal boss sees his role, but it's almost too weak a word to describe the manager's contribution.
McGuinness has his back-room team, of course, but on his shoulders rests the strategic planning, the vision, the overview of an extensive training programme, the devising of match tactics and communication with the county board and medical teams.
Also in the mix are dealings with media, fans, sponsors, overseeing travel arrangements and training camps.
He is obliged too to take cognisance of the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of 32 footballers, all with their own issues within and outside the camp.
And, almost as an afterthought – at least in the minds of some supporters – there's the 'day job' in Scotland with Celtic.
It's a daunting proposition, which is the reason Lacey admires McGuinness and feels the manager deserves the gratitude and admiration of the Donegal public.
"He's an unbelievable man. Look at the time commitment. He's put in more than any player has put in," said Lacey.
"We see him in our role as players, but he's got to meet his management team as well, and do all the extra work.
"He's flying over and back to Scotland as well for his job. Maybe Jim has the same thoughts as me, that he doesn't want to have any regrets. He wants to give it his best. He certainly does that.
"He's a top man and every player is behind him, and always has been since 2011. I'd love for him to stay on for another few years, but listen, that's his decision. I'm sure he'll make that at the end of this year."
Outsiders may wonder how long the players can put up with McGuinness' 'my way or the highway' attitude, but it's not a problem in Lacey's view.
They all accept that if players can't give their all to the cause, they are free to walk away, and McGuinness doesn't go pleading for anyone to change their mind.
"That's the way he's done it," said Lacey. "Jim's put it to everybody the commitment he's looking for, and it's up to them to make their decision on that.
"When you hear Jim talking in the meetings we have, there's a real feeling of, 'this boy knows what he's talking about'.
"There's a huge belief behind him and his theories, and how he wants to do things. I think that's why everybody has stayed on. He's convincing."
McGuiness' joy and that of his players was plain to see in the aftermath of last Sunday's Ulster final victory over title-holders Monaghan.
Satisfying as it was, Donegal are now settling down for the August weekend challenge of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
"The only thing we're focusing on now is the summer and the All-Ireland series," added Lacey.
"We've our Ulster championship in our back pocket, and we'll put that to one side and focus on the next three weeks of training leading into the quarter-final."
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