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PLAYING the PERCENTAGES

JIM McGuinness uses percentages a lot.

Dublin, he reckons, are playing at "85 or 90 per cent" of their total collective aptitude, suggesting he expects at best only minor improvement on Sunday and not a whole pile of variation from their seasonal theme.

Regularly, he notes, they retain "70 to 85 per cent" of their own kick outs, a "ridiculous stat," in McGuinness's opinion; "unheard of in gaelic football."

He defines every aspect of Donegal's well-being or otherwise in percentages.

Presumably, so there can be no ambiguity.

In a breakdown of Donegal's game plan on any and every given Sunday, "20 per cent" is based around the tendencies of the opposition.

"It's 80 per cent about yourself and then the rest about them," he explains. "we never go above the 20 per cent mark."

Yet while systems and instructions have given Donegal a platform from which to be successful these past four years of his reign, the execution, he insists, is "100 per cent about football players."

Encouragingly for him and his team, Karl Lacey's hamstring is "back up to 95/100 per cent," strength while participation in training over the course of the season is "up there at 93 per cent."

"Last year," he notes grimly, "it was down around 40 per cent mark."

For an inter-county manager, the specificity of his thoughts are almost jarring, yet hugely illuminating.

In Dublin's destruction of Monaghan, regarded the finest exhibition of their credentials for greatness, McGuinness says he learned very, very little.

menace

There's almost a passive-aggressive menace about how he says he has watched and studied Dublin since last their paths crossed in 2011 and knows what they're all about anyway.

He didn't need to watch them decorate Monaghan on a wet Saturday night in August to figure anything out.

Yet asked the greatest improvement in Dublin this season, he hits the nail squarely on the head.

"The one thing that they have added is the number of shots they are getting off; 45, 46, 47 consistently.

"They are very relentless in terms of their approach and they ask a wild lot of questions.

"We know that they are very fit, strong, well-organised and they have got their system well down the track in terms of their development.

"I don't see much more improvement or movement in their system from here on in."

Unsurprisingly, given his stated regard for their importance, McGuinness wouldn't be drawn on which method to employ when facing Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs on Sunday.

But when it's put to him that part of Monaghan's ruination in the quarter-final was their decision to back off and grant Dublin possession, McGuinness fully agrees.

"That gave Dublin the opportunity to consistently take the ball and consistently set up attacks.

"But the other side of the coin," he continues, "if you push up and you do everything right do you get the ball? Does it work?"

So there are percentages, tactics and stats...but bottom line: can Donegal win?

"Every team I have ever been involved with in my life I have felt that we can win the game," he insists.

"We have got to go to Dublin believing we can win the game. The players have been excellent. Everything we have asked of them they have given it to us two fold.

demoralised

"You have to try and come up with a game plan that will get you over the line. I definitely don't want to be associated with being a gallant loser.

"I know there is a sense with a certain amount of people in Donegal that they wouldn't want to see us going up and getting demoralised.

"That happened in last year's quarter-final (against Mayo) and I can understand that.

"Maybe some of the families of the players and supporters and friends (feel like that).

"But the bottom line," insists McGuinness, "it's a championship match.

"We are 70 minutes from an All-Ireland final and we have to do everything in our power to get to that final."


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