Sunday 28 December 2014

McGinley plans Ryder Cup role for McGuinness

Dermot Gilleece in Abu Dhabi

Published 20/01/2013 | 05:00

Jim McGuinness

DONEGAL football manager Jim McGuinness could be Paul McGinley's wild card in the build-up to next year's Ryder Cup.

Having "marked Dermot Desmond's card" about McGuinness which led to an eventual coaching post at Celtic, McGinley is now set to draw on the Donegal man's man-management skills in preparing for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Where past captains looked to Alex Ferguson as an expert in this area, McGinley says he will find the guidance he needs within the ranks of the GAA, and particularly with McGuinness.

And recalling the circumstances of Celtic's move for the Donegal manager, McGinley said: "Early last year, I marked Dermot Desmond's card about Jim. I told Dermot he was, as I put it, cutting edge and to keep an eye on him. Dermot replied that he would.

"Next thing, my dad brought Jim as a guest to the Irish Open at Royal Portrush in June. It was his first experience of a golf tournament. After the pro-am, they happened to meet Dermot in the hospitality area and Jim was introduced. But nothing happened until after Donegal had won the All-Ireland. That was when Dermot invited him down to his office. I had no further involvement at that point, but was obviously delighted when Jim was appointed [to a coaching role at Celtic] in October."

Given that he was operating on nightly sleep of little more than three hours last week, due to the excitement of his appointment, it was hardly a surprise that he missed the halfway cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He has remained on site this weekend to practise ahead of this week's Qatar Masters.

A forthcoming function as Ryder Cup skipper will be to name the respective Continent of Europe and British and Irish captains for the Vivendi Seve Trophy to be played next October. In the meantime, there was much to talk about.

He hopes his intention to tap into the GAA world will also involve a chat with Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, although he made it clear that until after this year's All-Ireland final he will limit such contact to Donegal, his parents' native county.

McGinley has already profited from an established friendship with McGuinness in handling the often turbulent build-up to his appointment as Ryder Cup captain last Tuesday.

And there was also crucial advice from leading Irish businessmen Dermot Desmond and Aidan Heavey, and from Eddie Jordan, one-time owner of Jordan Grand Prix.

THE MAKING OF A CAPTAIN PAGE 9

"I'm a big fan of Mickey Harte's to the point where I've read everything he's written," he said. "Though I've never met the man, I greatly admire what he's done with Tyrone. But I won't attempt to contact him until later in the year. And the same applies to Dublin, because I know so much about Donegal that I could be accused of having a foot in each camp.

"My love of team sport stems from my experiences as a boy, playing in local GAA teams, singing Irish songs on the way back to the clubhouse and then having tea, coffee or a soft drink together. Now, at the highest level, the GAA remains my inspiration."

Though he didn't identify them by name, the businessmen who had been so helpful during a trying preamble to the captaincy are familiar figures in golfing circles. Desmond has been a friend going back to the player's amateur days and McGinley has a business relationship with Heavey, founder and CEO of Tullow Oil. Then there was the involvement of Pádraig Harrington, a colleague and friend for 30 years.

"When the Watson thing broke, it was extremely helpful to have Pádraig come out, totally unprompted, as a voice of reason," said McGinley, referring to the high-profile appointment of his boyhood hero, Tom Watson, as the American skipper for 2014.

"He pointed out that in terms of stature in the game, we couldn't match Watson, but the Ryder Cup captaincy wasn't about that. At the time, his words were exactly what I needed to hear."

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