Saturday 18 January 2020

What the move means for Donegal

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It would be no surprise to see the odds on Tyrone winning next year's Ulster title taking a slight tumble in the windows of bookmaking firms this morning.

On a personal level, news of a potentially lucrative contract for Jim McGuinness in a field that he educated himself specifically for, is welcome.

McGuinness took to education relatively late in life, but fast-tracked himself quickly through third level colleges and universities with the same unyielding determination that has shaped his two seasons at the head of affairs in Donegal.

For Donegal football, however, still on a high just over six weeks on from their All-Ireland triumph, it is a potential game-changing distraction.

One way or another, the man that bound them together, unified them, changed their ways and inspired them, has his head up looking in a different direction.

Whether he accepts a position with Celtic on a full-time basis or takes a part-time role in the academy as a performance coach, which will place big logistical pressures on him, the absolute focus that dictated the terms of business for the last two years has been disturbed.

Even if he was to decline the offer and throw all his resources into Donegal in 2013 -- the most unlikely scenario -- he'll always wonder what might have been.

Everything Donegal have done since he took charge in July 2010, when he was finally given the job after two previous failed attempts, was predicated on that 'absolute' factor.

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The mental and physical commitment invested was the platform to take them to where they have arrived.

On top of that there was smart, astute tactical awareness and coaching, but the bottom line was the overhaul of how the team and all its components behaved and prepared.

Even a part-time role with a professional club in another country would surely dilute his energy for a job that he reckoned, at the pre All-Ireland press night in September, involved something close to 60 hours a week.

Trying to serve two masters would go against that principle of absoluteness that has been the cornerstone of their impressive rise to the top over the last two years.

McGuinness is a professional operator in the field of sports psychology and science. Nobody can wish him anything other than well if he takes on the new role mapped out for him.

Is it now the beginning of the end of this Donegal team as we know them?

Maybe not. They have plenty of young, ambitious players who are reaping the rewards from doing their business a certain way.

But it's a big break in the chain that held them so tightly together since he picked them off the floor.

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