Wednesday 13 December 2017

Neil Lennon feared Jim McGuinness backlash if Donegal failed to beat Tyrone

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Celtic manager Neil Lennon
David Kelly

David Kelly

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has suggested that the knives would have been out for Donegal manager Jim McGuinness had the All-Ireland champions stumbled to defeat against Tyrone last month.

McGuinness, appointed performance consultant by the Scottish champions last year in the aftermath of Donegal's All-Ireland success, has been commuting back and forth between Lennoxtown and Letterkenny all season.

And there have been whispers of discontent within Donegal, particularly when the Sam Maguire holders lost their Division 1 status after a dismal league campaign, with some pundits tipping them to lose their Ulster crown at the first hurdle to Tyrone.

"He was very nervous going into the Tyrone game," revealed Lennon – Donegal eased to a 2-10 to 0-10 destruction of Tyrone. "That's given Donegal a huge psychological lift for the remainder of the campaign.

"I spoke briefly with him on Monday. He was really pleased with the way they'd come through.

"I'm sure there were a lot of people who would have come out to sharpen the knives if they'd been beaten, saying that he wasn't focused on the Donegal job because he was spending three days a week in Glasgow.

"But we made sure that what he was doing with us wouldn't over-ride his primary job, which is with Donegal."

Lennon, “a grumpy Armagh fan”, has declared the first year of his partnership with his fellow Ulsterman a resounding success and claimed that he had learned much from his celebrated counterpart.

“Jim is a very intelligent man and I’ve learned a lot of little snippets from how he works,” said Lennon of McGuinness, whose primary role involves the identification and development of young talent.

“I’ve seen the way he was able to evolve his ideas on Gaelic football and effectively from the third division to the Champions League in a very short space of time.

“We’ve chewed the fat on a lot of things, really – not just GAA and soccer. We’ve talked a whole lot about the psychology of sport more than anything else.

“And he’s worked very well with the younger players. He’s given us a bit more insight into their mentality.

“What we really want from Jim is to build up a profile of all the younger players, so we know their strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s not about their football talents because we will have already ascertained those anyway, but their private lives as well.

“It’s going really well so far and we are both looking forward to making more progress next season.”

Irish Independent

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