DONEGAL senior football manager Jim McGuinness has admitted his sporting hero is a Kerry legend.
The coach, going for his second All-Ireland title in a clash with the Kingdom at Croke Park tomorrow, says the great Jack O’Shea was his boyhood hero.
O’Shea won seven All-Ireland titles and ten Munster titles with Kerry during a county playing career between 1976 and 1992, retiring the year Donegal finally won their first All-Ireland.
“Growing up, Jack O’Shea was my hero,” said McGuinness.
“He was part of a wonderful Kerry team that played in an awful lot of All-Ireland finals.
“As someone growing up in that period, he was the person you wanted to be and I think it was the same for most young boys playing gaelic football.”
He added: “I was a big fan of the Donegal team too and that was your ambition, to play for Donegal.”
Ultimately, says McGuinness, his close-knit family are the real inspiration behind his success.
“My family have given me enormous support over the years,” said the father of five.
“They have given me the opportunity to go after my dreams for both Donegal and at Celtic.
“They have been a huge part of that, freeing me up to be able to do what I do.”
In sporting terms however the Glenties man also takes inspiration from some modern sporting greats.
“I really like Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, he is a very, very good coach,” said McGuinness.
“I also follow Chip Kelly (head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles) in American Football. For me every day is a school day, you are always learning all the time.
“At Celtic now it has been very, very interesting with a new coach and a new philosophy. It is interesting to see that unfold and seeing a new manager put his own stamp on things.”
The banter and the craic ahead of tomorrow’s final has been all good-natured.
However, one Kerry woman says she’s staying at home to watch the game – so her Donegal husband can go to Croker.
Fiona Farry, who is principal at Cloughfin National School outside Lifford in Co Donegal, is a staunch fan of the Kingdom having been born in Castleisland.
But she says she wants her husband Gerry “to see real football” being played by Kerry.
“I told him to run along but he is wasting his time as Kerry are going to bring back Sam,” said Fiona.
“He wouldn’t listen to me but he’ll be the one on a wasted journey come Sunday afternoon.”
The popular teacher proudly wore her Kerry jersey into school yesterday but was outnumbered by her Donegal pupils and three other staff.