Sunday 18 March 2018

Jim McGuinness: Mayo still lacking marquee forward

Jim McGuinness is unlikely to be involved on a GAA sideline anytime soon. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jim McGuinness is unlikely to be involved on a GAA sideline anytime soon. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The surface of Jim McGuinness is only being scratched but he's being whisked away for other media duties. Sky Sports are launching their GAA coverage for the 2017 season and they want their pound of flesh from their media event in one of Croke Park's corporate boxes.

But it's clear McGuinness isn't going to be seen on a GAA sideline again any time soon. Things are going too well at Celtic and in his coaching career in general. The summer is the off-season for the Scottish champions but McGuinness will be busy anyway. He's starting his 'A' Licence, a high-level coaching qualification in soccer circles.

"It has been a great year obviously, and a very successful one up to this point and we are coming to the end of it now," he says of his season in Glasgow.

"From my own point of view, I'm back coaching and working with young players again, which has been great, I have continued to work through my coaching badges and have enjoyed that. I start the 'A' licence now in July, that will take a year to complete and in the process of that year, I will study the game as much as possible.

"There are quite a number of teams and managers that I am looking at, and what they are doing and how they are doing it in line with my own vision. So I want to tick those boxes over the next 12 months and put myself in a position at the end of the year, if I get the badge, that I will be more comfortable (with) how I see the game myself."

bouncing The step after that is the Pro Licence, the qualification that is required to manage a team in one of Europe's top leagues, but McGuinness stresses getting to that level isn't necessarily the aim at this point. He has however been bouncing around Europe as much as possible recently, spending time with teams like Manchester City and Bayer Leverkusen in a bid to educate himself on the game as much as possible.

"At the end of the 'A' Licence you'd still have to do your Pro Licence to go on (to manage). I think the 'A' Licence is the highest coaching qualification, the Pro Licence is more about management - that's not to say there isn't coaching on it but I think it's more about boards and budgets and so on.

"To be honest, I don't know where it's going to end up, I just want to keep on going, keep on progressing and see if I've got the capacity. But I'd like to maybe at some stage take control of a team myself, whether that's the young lads within the academy or whatever. I'd like to obviously get out the other side in terms of my own philosophy and get out the other side in terms of the badges and then start working with a team on a day-to-day basis."

He'll still keep his eye in on football here and reckons that Dublin's defeat in the league final might just be the making of them.

"I just think the young players they continue to bring through, the quality they have. And they play at home, it's second nature to them playing at Croke Park, they are used to winning and they are very professional in everything they do.

"Stephen Cluxton still gives them platform to attack, it's massive what he brings to the team. Primary possession is so important and when you are almost guaranteed that every day then it just puts you up there before the game even starts.

"They have brilliant free-takers as well, so they bring a lot to the table. I can understand why some people are going, 'They were on the ropes a few times in the National League and they were on the ropes last year'.

"But that's why I think this moment now is a moment for reflection for them, it's like, 'Okay, so what do we want to do? What is our destiny or how do we see this?' If they see it as in 'that didn't feel good and I want to go back to here (winning feeling)' then I think they could be in a really good place. If not, then maybe the door is opening for other teams to take advantage of that."

And if he leaves a little room for manoeuvre on Dublin's chances, he's unequivocal about Mayo. For McGuinness, last year's runners up just don't have the forwards to do the damage needed to win.

"For me they don't (have the marquee forward) and that is the Achilles heel of the team over the last couple of years. They have really good players all over the pitch and really good forwards but the type of player I am talking about is a cut above even his peers. It's a 'Gooch' Cooper, a Peter Canavan, a Michael Murphy. I don't see that player."

Marquee "Who is the guy you would champion? Who is the guy that is your marquee player? Who is the guy who is kicking five, six, seven points every game (without) free-kicks, if that makes sense. Every team has them down the years, Mickey Linden, whoever it was, these top, top players who ran the forward line.

"As a manager in the opposition, you are going, 'How do we handle him?' As an opposition manager, looking at Mayo, you are thinking it is a tough job handling them but I think we have the capacity to do that. Whereas sometimes, these top, top players, there is nothing you can do with them almost if they are on it on a given day. Dublin has had them, everyone who has won All-Irelands, if you go back through the history of the game, everyone has had that player.

"Normally, years back, it would have been on the 40, whether it was a Martin McHugh or a Greg Blaney or a Trevor Giles. It was on the 40. But now it is normally inside forwards. You need the six of them to be brilliant footballers but you still need that bit of absolute class, I think. And it is not a criticism, it is just the landscape as I see it."

Dubs first up on Sky

Sky Sports will broadcast 14 games exclusively across both hurling and football as part of their live GAA offering this summer, writes Donnchadh Boyle.

Their exclusive coverage starts with Dublin’s opener in football against either Wexford or Carlow on June 3 in the Leinster SFC and ends with two All-Ireland football quarter-finals on August 5.

The subscription broadcaster will also show Kilkenny’s possible clash with Wexford in the Leinster SHC semi-final as well as handful of qualifiers in both codes across the summer. Sky’s analysis will be provided by the likes of Jim McGuinness and Peter Canavan in football and Jamesie O’Connor and Nicky English in hurling.

Sky are in the first year of a new five-season deal they signed with the GAA and, in a new development, supporters can watch games contract-free via from €10.

Earlier this month, RTé announced they would show 31 games live on TV across both championships, with a number of those to be shown by both the national broadcaster and Sky, including both All-Ireland finals.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport