Jim McGuinness remains tight-lipped on backroom departures
PERHAPS it is appropriate that Jim McGuinness partook in a little dancing at an event where he was handing out awards for contributions to the arts,.
The Donegal manager neatly pirouetted around the elephant in the room as he met the media for the first time since the shock news that his back-room staff had departed last week.
Would the Arthur Guinness Projects ambassador care to enlighten the world on just what happened with Rory Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel?
"No," he replied with a dismissive laugh. "No is the answer. I don't want to make a comment on it to be honest. The only thing I'd say is that everything that is in the statement is what happened."
That brief statement issued by the Donegal County Board shed little light on an issue that dominated the GAA debate in the build-up to last week's All-Ireland final and while McGuinness said that it was his call, his decision not to speak at length about the departure will only feed the rumour mill.
Currently, he is trying to identify the right men to come in and revive a set-up that was blown apart by defeats to Monaghan and Mayo this season.
"I would know myself there's only so many people that can fit that category," he added. "I'd know myself what I would need within the set-up and what's required. I've spoken to a few people and we'll be making an announcement in the next couple of days.
"New voices are good as well. Everybody is trying to push on and raise the bar and you are asking the same of the players. It will bring a freshness definitely. We know have to complete this process and then start the new process of preparing the team after that."
Last week's upheaval has heaped pressure on a man who just 12 months ago looked like he could do no wrong in Donegal.
"I think you always feel under pressure," he said. "That's the nature of the sport. If you're stepping about and feeling good about yourself all the time, it wouldn't be reality," he explained.
"You're in charge of a county, the preparation of that team, the performance of that team and you've to try to be at your best all the time to do that. You've to be there every single night. I'm asking 100pc of my players and we've never hid that. So, you've got to be in it 100pc as well, you've got to be in it to the same level.
"You can't expect someone to sacrifice their level for Donegal if you're not prepared to do the same. Next year is a big year for us, obviously. It was very disappointing this year based on some of the things we've spoken about today in terms of preparation.
"So, hopefully, we can get back to playing well again, preparing properly and delivering big performances."
The big difference, McGuinness believes, between this year and last is the fact that he was able to broker agreement with the Donegal clubs on moving their championship until the county footballers are out.
He expects everybody to be back, although Ross Wherity is off to New York for the winter and Ryan Bradley has moved to Dubai. Both men are trying out life abroad, but may be back for 2014.
"We got six or seven weeks of a run in to the Tyrone match and we were very happy with how we performed in that game," he explained.
"But after that there was too much going on for the team to deliver.
"We have done a very thorough assessment of it to be brutally honest with you. We have our own opinions on it. If I started to tell you now you would say I am making excuses for what had happened, but there were things going on maybe that could have been (different). The club championship in particular.
"Our players ended up playing nine championship games in 11 weeks, between the club championship and the county team. It's difficult to be at that level that many times in such a short space of time – and then we picked up a lot of injuries along the way.
"We picked up nine injuries in the four club championship matches, on top of the injuries we picked up at county level.
"Those factors were very important to me when I was going back to finish off my final year in this term."