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'I never once thought we would lose' - Jim McGuinness

Every morning for the last two weeks, Jim McGuinness would wake up with a vision of a large cup sitting on the front of a bus heading north on a Monday afternoon, back into the environment he and his team cherish most.

It was his own process of visualisation, his way of keeping any sliver of a negative thought away. It was a thought he would readily impart to his players when they would convene to prepare for this day.

Losing just never entered the equation. What he had considered a five-year plan from the outset was now going to be achieved in two. He couldn't see beyond it.

"I never once thought we were going to get beat. I couldn't go there. It's just so far removed from this. I just didn't want to go there. I kept believing what we were going to do and I kept working towards that and focus on that.

"You get motivated by negatives, and that is something we have to focus on ourselves. It's just so important that the visual in your own mind is positive all the time. You just work towards it.

"That doesn't mean you're going to win the match. It was just for myself, to try and firewall myself and the players too.

"I never once thought about how it would feel to get beat or the consequences of getting beat or how the dressing-room would be. I was just completely focused on what we have been doing and how we could improve it and driving that and create a situation where it would all work out."

The cup on the bus helped that process.

"I've said to them over the last few weeks that I can see the cup in the front of the bus. Every morning I woke up I could see the cup in the front of the bus and that has become a reality now. Tonight will be great and tomorrow morning will be great.

"The moment the door closes on the bus and I know we're heading home with the cup on it, that is going to be the best journey those boys will ever be on in their lives. That is the moment I am looking forward to.

"I am looking forward to seeing everybody going down the road, but more than anything, going into our own county with the cup. And that lift that it is going to give all those kids and all those old people in the county.

For four weeks Donegal has convulsed itself at the prospect of this victory, and McGuinness believes that may have impacted on the performance, especially in the first half.

It was perhaps their least controlled performance of the summer and something, somewhere had got into the system over the last four weeks.

"I think the hype got to us a wee bit. We had a very good start, we played some good football but I think we forced our own natural game a wee bit," he said.

"We forced balls inside. I know we got joy off a ball like that early in the game when we got a goal off it, but we forced ball inside as well from maybe the wrong areas of the pitch.

"Our normal running game wasn't as fluid as it could have been as well. Mayo made it difficult for us and the game went down to the wire. In the second half when we settled there was more composure as a unit and I felt we controlled the game fairly well then."

Captain Michael Murphy shared his manager's visualisation all year of an All-Ireland title at the end of their journey.

Belief

"I honestly could (see it)," he said. "Coming off the back of last year, one of the main things that was instilled in the team was a belief and a confidence that we could win games. Up until last year we hadn't won a lot of games in Ulster and the latter stages of an All-Ireland series.

"Last year gave us the belief. Training through the winter and playing in the National League we knew we had a lot of things to work on, but every morning you were waking up you were winning an All-Ireland in the back of your head."

McGuinness felt the players had just been through a life-changing experience.

"It's a life-changing moment for a player," he said. "You are no longer Michael Murphy, you are no longer Colm McFadden. You are Michael Murphy the All-Ireland winner and that is a great title to have and no one can take that away from them. That's the enjoyment I get out of it."

Irish Independent