McGuinness says new rules could mean return of ‘swashbuckling’ Dublin

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Jim McGuinness remains studiously interested in Gaelic football, even though he’s about to embark on his biggest coaching move yet, moving into professional soccer management.

McGuinness will be unveiled today as the new head coach of Charlotte Independence, who play in American soccer’s second tier.

It is four years now since McGuinness’s Donegal lowered Dublin’s colours in an epic All-Ireland semi-final.

Dublin have won the last four All-Irelands and McGuinness remains the last manager to have beaten Jim Gavin in Championship football.

As Dublin enter their five-in-a-row bid, the intrigue for McGuinness will be how the Dubs cope with the experimental rules that will be rolled out for the early competitions in 2019.

By Championship next year, however, it will be the same.

“They’re highly-coached and they are top athletes, and their execution levels are really, really high and will continue to be because that wheel is moving now. It’s going to take something exceptional to knock or jilt that wheel off course,” said McGuinness.

“Dublin are very vociferous in terms of the new rules, as the new rules will impact on Dublin hugely.

“They have now morphed into this really controlled, possession-based game, so the handpass rule will impact on them.

“Obviously, Stephen Cluxton then will kill you going short and then if you push up, he goes long. But now we know that he’s going to be going long, they are their two mainstays at the moment, the capacity to play possession football, draw the opposition out, wait for the space and play behind that space, and the capacity to use their goalkeeper to go and attack.

“They are their two strongest things that the rules will impact on, that’s why you see the players coming out and saying that they don’t like the rules, and some of the ex-players saying that the rules are not really favourable.”

McGuinness has taken quite the about turn since that August afternoon in 2014 when Donegal toppled Dublin in an absorbing semi-final.

He warned that Dublin are well capable of adapting, adding: “What could happen is that Dublin regress back to what they were doing when Jim Gavin took over in 2013, that sort of swashbuckling, aggressive kicking game that was almost unstoppable, to my mind the best brand of football that I have seen in many, many years.

“So every cloud has a silver lining and even though they won’t like it in the short-term, it could end up bringing that style back to the fore very quickly as he has already adapted that and he will know how to coach that in a heartbeat.”

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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