FOR A MAN who some believe revolutionised the thought process in Gaelic games, Jim McGuinness admitted last night he has recently read Another Way of Winning.
It’s the autobiography of the current Bayern Munich and former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.
Despite a list of managerial successes – which include two Champions Leagues, three La Liga titles, two Bundesligas, three Uefa Super Cups and three Fifa Club World Cups – Guardiola carries with him a sense of doubt.
“There’s no genius in it,” McGuinness said of management. “It’s about hard work. I read Pep Guardiola’s book a number of months ago and he doubts himself all the time – he’s the best manager there is. ‘
“For him it’s about workrate and it’s about details and it’s about preparation and I firmly believe in that as well.”
McGuinness was at Dtwo in the Harcourt Hotel launching his own book, ‘Until Victory Always – A Memoir’ where he was the guest of honour of the Donegal Association Dublin.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted by experienced journalist Jimmy Magee, McGuinness described his four-year term as Donegal manager as “special.”
Photo caption: Siobhan and Ciara Shovlin from Ardara with former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness at Dtwo, Harcourt Street in Dublin last night. Photo courtesy of the Donegal Association Dublin.
During that time, Donegal won three Ulster SFC titles and the 2012 All-Ireland.
Although some might’ve stated Donegal’s turnaround in fortunes under his management was due to the precociousness in dissecting the game, McGuinness gave an example of the level of input required – that “hard work” – that has taken Guardiola to where he is.
McGuinness used the example of the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final, where Donegal defied the predictions of many to overcame Jim Gavin’s all-conquering Dublin 3-14 to 0-17 at Croke Park.
“If we had a championship match – say that Dublin match – we might’ve had 10 DVD’s of Dublin and I would’ve watched every one of them over five hours,” McGuinness said.
“I’d stop and start and start and stop. Mark Anthony, my wee fella, would be sitting beside me and he’d be saying ‘press play now’ and I’d see something and I’d press pause: ‘Let’s play Daddy’.”
“That process was going on and on and on. Meanwhile your number two was doing the same thing. So at the end of that process you’d have it written down – seventh minute, 11th minute, 24th minute … .
“Once you get that game done, you put it to the side and then you look at the next game. And you don’t look at the first one. When you’ve them all done then you can go back and look at the trends – what’s happening, who is doing it and when are they doing it.
“The video analyst comes along and he might have something and then the number two comes along and he might have something. Then you have a very clear picture in your mind.”
Although priding himself on the no-stone-unturned school of preparation, McGuinness stressed it was vital to have a panel with the abilities and application to turn his thoughts into tactics.
“You explain what you’ve studied to the players and then you start coaching it,” he added. “This is what it’s all about. It comes down then on the day to how much of it you get right and the quality of players you have.
“We had a lot of leaders. You could could go through every one of the lines – Karl Lacey for example has four All-Stars. If you’re good enough you can wear white boots and he is good enough. Frank McGlynn, incredible player, Colm McFadden – I thought he was exceptional in the county panel for us.
“They all came to the fore but you do need someone driving the processes as a vocal leader and Michael Murphy filled that role incredibly.”
Although it was occasionally claimed by those outside the tent that McGuinness’s managerial reign in Donegal was conducted with an iron fist, the former manager believes that diligence and respect – a two-way respect – were his most paramount of demands.
In July 2010, at the third time of applying, McGuinness was named as Donegal senior team manager.
“Management, for me, is not about fear,” he said. “If you want to get the best out of people you cannot tell them what to do. They need to understand what is involved in the process and they must want to do it themselves.
“I knew the people of Donegal were waiting on a team – we could fill that gap – but you tell them this is what it’s going to take. We needed to get fitter, we need to get stronger, we need to get a gameplan, we need nutrition, we need better hotels, analysis – everything had to go up.
“If we’re not prepared to go down that road then we’re bullshitting ourselves. That is the reality and people understood that. So, were they afraid of me? I don’t know.”
McGuinness was already in the process of assembling his backroom team following his appointment when he gathered the playing panel together for the first time at the Rosapenna Hotel in Downings in November 2010.
Donegal had failed to win a single match in the Ulster SFC since 2007 but he believed if his players bought into his designs, then they could at least become competitive. He promised to put medals in their back pockets.
“I met the backroom team and I told them that every single word that comes out of your mouth to these players will be positive,” McGuinness added. “You’ll never talk down at them, you’ll never say anything negative to them, you’ll never talk about a player in the company of another support person.
“You keep saying ‘well done, keep driving – it’s going to happen’ and we can build this relationship. We all have a common goal. When they committed to make that happen – I’m looking at you and you’re looking at me and I know you’re giving it 100 per cent and you know the same – the subs, the management. Everyone is pushing it to the limit. And that creates a purity in the group and everyone is going ‘this is real.’
“Respect works both ways. One of the first things we said when we met the players and we introduced them to the backroom team, the first thing we said is that you must respect these people. These people are going to put their life on hold to support you to become an All-Ireland champion.
“This is not fellas coming together to sit in a dressing room and thinking it would be great to win an All-Ireland. You don’t win All-Irelands thinking it would be great to do something; you win All-Irelands when you say we’re going to do that and whatever it takes to make that happen, we’re going to make that happen. Then you have people that are really, really focused.”
McGuinness recalled from his own playing days that criticism had a negative effect. For Donegal to flourish under his management, the group, as well as maintaining positivity, had to learn what they were part of.
“What I experienced sometimes, throughout my career, was that if you made a mistake you were just berated,” he continued. “Whatever confidence was in you, well you don’t go out for the next ball and express yourself, you play it safe. And I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted everyone to feel that they were part of something and nobody would cross that boundary.
“If you’re driving this way after training and I’m driving that way and you’ve disrespected me, that doesn’t go away. You carry that with you and the other person does as well. Then, when you’re in the heat of championship football these things come back to the surface.
“What happened on that back of that, once we stopped breaking that boundary and people become very comfortable in each others’ company – people from Gweedore were able to look at someone from Glenties or Letterkenny and say ‘they’re not too bad – he’s not a bad fella.’ That relationship was being built and what came in then was fun and joy and pranksters.
“Very rarely was that boundary broken. If it was broken, what I used to do on the pitch was 100 press-ups. Stop the training – everyone in, 100 press-ups. We got everyone in the huddle and we told everyone the same thing: ‘We’re all from Donegal. We all want to win the All-Ireland.’ When we go out there in championship football, you have to die for that player.”
“We’d give it everything in our body on the training field and that’s why it became very special. No matter what the media said and no matter what RTE said or pundits or newspapers, it didn’t matter to us. We knew what we had. That’s a very special thing and we created that and we will have that forever.”Tags: