Friday 6 December 2019

McGee hails big impact of club-mate MacNiallais

Neil McGee believes a lasting respect for Donegal football has been established after what the county has achieved over the past four years. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Neil McGee believes a lasting respect for Donegal football has been established after what the county has achieved over the past four years. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It has become a turning point in more ways than just the physical act of wheeling a car around in the middle of a country road to double back home and sort out a burgeoning problem.

When Neil McGee revealed the detail of Michael Murphy's sharp turn somewhere around Monaghan to address wavering commitment among some of the group to another year, the threat of Jim McGuinness departing became quite apparent.

McGuinness spoke earlier this week about needing to know from players, at the meeting Murphy had called, how far they were prepared to go. To this day McGee, the team's forceful full-back, remains adamant it was their most important journey.

"Michael wanted to get things sorted out and he managed that," he recalled. "We managed to call a meeting then on the Sunday morning. Everyone was at that meeting and we said, 'boys, what are we going to do here?" added the Gaoth Dobhair man.

"Everyone was in agreement then that whatever we had to do to keep Jim in place, we had to do it. Thankfully he stayed on and we have not looked back since."

McGee can be an understated figure in Donegal but he knows the importance of McGuinness to making things work in the county, never more so than the build up to the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.

"It goes to show the belief we had in Jim, we just kept plugging away, did the same things and got our rewards," he said. "We knew going in at half-time that it was tight and that we were not far away."

McGee is enthused by the progress of his Gaoth Dobhair club-mate Odhran MacNiallais this season and has identified him as the main reason why they recovered against Dublin the last day, even drawing parallels with Diarmuid Connolly.

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"He's the one player that kept us going in the first half against Dublin. I travel with him every day, I see him every day. When he first came on, it was clear he had the talent," said McGee.

"He would remind you a bit of Diarmuid Connolly, he had that kind of talent. He's married that now with hard work.

"We would train together down in Gaoth Dobhair in the gym and he would have been known a few years ago for skipping the odd gym session!

"I kept him on his toes this year, I went up to the house to take him down! He's down there before me now."

McGee believes they have established lasting respect for Donegal football with what they have achieved in the last four years.

"A lot of those teams in the past would have laughed at us and looked down at us.

"To get up to that level and take them down is great but it's not something we would gloat about. We wouldn't be those kind of people, we would be a very humble bunch," he said.

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