Jim McGuinness has backed Ulster champions Donegal to kick on and urged Declan Bonner’s men to keep their focus on the provincial championship in 2019.
McGuinness, who guided Donegal to All-Ireland glory in 2012, won three Ulster titles in four years as Donegal manager.
The Glenties man was recently appointed as the new head coach of Charlotte Independence, who play in the second tier of the American soccer League, but has been keeping a close eye on Donegal’s fortunes.
“Oh, I think so…Oh, absolutely,” McGuinness nodded when asked if Declan Bonner’s side could compete with the top sides in 2019.
Donegal missed out on an All-Ireland semi-final place in 2018 when Tyrone came from behind to topple them in a ‘Super 8’ clash in Ballybofey.
“The boys have to push on this year,” said McGuinness.
“For me, progress this year would be an All-Ireland semi-final, an All-Ireland final, getting back among the big boys again.
“We are Ulster champions. The most important thing for me is to focus on that Ulster Championship again.”
McGuinness always preached about the importance of winning Ulster during his reign as Tir Chonaill manager.
Donegal lost only one of the 14 Ulster SFC games they played under McGuinness – the 2013 final against Monaghan – and he remains the last manager to have lowered Dublin’s colours, in a 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.
McGuinness believes winning Ulster should remain a key objective.
He said: “You become the champions of your province and you go down the road as a different animal. You walk a certain way and talk a certain way: ‘We are the champions of our province’.
“It’s a very difficult province to come out of. That’s like a self-validation. That aspect is really important
“They know what it’s like being champions. The bar naturally raises when you creates that space for yourself.
“Declan has a very good coaching team around him. They have a lot of experience there.
“The group know what it’s like to win and you have people there that know how to win an All-Ireland.
“There are a lot of things in their favour. It’s very important to get to the Ulster final and try to win it again.”