Tuesday 24 October 2017

'He captivated us' – English rugby side Saracens praise 'fantastic' guest speaker Jim McGuinness

Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness
Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

Champions Cup semi-finalists Saracens enlisted the motivational expertise of All-Ireland winning coach Jim McGuinness this week and the club hailed his "fantastic" contribution.

Former Donegal manager McGuinness spoke to the rugby squad ahead of their daunting Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday and the sports psychologist is the latest in a list of guest speakers for the English Premiership club.

Now part of the backroom team with Celtic, McGuinness guided Donegal to three Ulster senior titles in four seasons, culminating with 2012 All Ireland silverware being secured for only a second time in more than 120 years.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall was highly impressed by the contribution of the Irishman as his team go in search of a European final after falling at the penultimate hurdle last year.

“When he took over at Donegal in 2010, they hadn’t won a game for three seasons and hadn’t won a championship for 19 seasons," he said.

“He took them on a journey over four years and it seemed like a very similar journey to our own.

“He captivated the group for an hour. He is an extremely passionate speaker and he was fantastic for the players, who really enjoyed it.

“I am not from Donegal, but I studied the story from afar and admired what he did. He had a very interesting story.”

The 42 year-old also worked with Europe captain Paul McGinley during the Ryder Cup victory over the United States at Gleneagles last year and follows  the likes of American athlete Michael Johnson, former motor racing world champion Jackie Stewart and ex-England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, in addition to polar explorers and army generals in addressing the group.

McGuinness said recently that he is thoroughly enjoying his psychologist role in Glasgow and is happy to have a break from the GAA.

"Things are going really well," he admitted. "We [Celtic] are still in the hunt for the treble, which has only ever been done twice."

"This is the first time I have been away from Gaelic football. At the moment to be honest I don't miss it. I have put so much into the last four years, it's nice to be taking a step back .

"This is the first time since I have been 19 years of age that I have had that step back, and it has been refreshing," while admitting that the busy schedule is very "full-on".

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