JIM MCGUINNESS HAS paid tribute to the two Donegal players who have this week announced their inter-county retirements.
In the wake of the county’s 1-15 to 1-10 loss against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Colm McFadden and Eamon McGee have stepped aside.
“Without Colm and Eamon I don’t think we could have won what we did,” the former Donegal manager wrote in his column in The Irish Times today.[adrotate group=”81″]
McGuinness took over as Donegal manager in 2010 when football in the county was at a low ebb and transformed the outlook in the north-west to win three Ulster titles and the 2012 All-Ireland.
It had been suggested that, at 27, McFadden was considering his inter-county future in 2010, while McGee, who made his championship debut in 2004, under Brian McEniff, was cajoled back into the Donegal panel by McGuinness in 2011, having played Division 4 football with London that year.
“It was incredible to share a dressing-room with them as players and later to manage them and to see them developing and fulfilling a lot of their dreams,” McGuinness said of the duo. “Everyone in Donegal will be proud of them in terms of what they’ve achieved.
“Go back to 2010 to where they were and how they were perceived and look at them now leaving as iconic figures.”
McGuinness felt that while Donegal certainly asked questions of Jim Gavin’s team on Saturday at Croke Park, Dublin’s tactical awareness deserves credit.
“It was a very tough ask for Donegal,” McGuinness added. “They tried to do as much as they could. They utilised Michael Murphy by having him alternate between full forward and coming out to midfield for kick-outs.
“There the loss of Neil Gallagher was very significant. When Dublin pushed up on the Donegal kick-out you didn’t have that absolute go-to man in terms of fetching, which forced Michael Murphy to fill that void as well.
“I feel Michael could do with a rest to let the body heal in the coming months, as he’s been carrying a few knocks all the way through the championship and trying to manage himself between games.
“It was a positive move to play Patrick McBrearty and Murphy together inside but I felt there were times when Donegal needed to pick their moments more carefully when letting the ball in.
Ryan McHugh slaps the Donegal goal in their 1-15 to 1-10 loss against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park on Saturday.
“I also thought Mark Anthony McGinley did well on his restarts and he’s improved significantly throughout the championship.”
McGuinness, though, did point out that although Donegal had a good defensive shape they did occasionally not have the bite as Dublin popped shots at goal. All in all, though, he felt that the Donegal support can be proud of the effort made by the team.
“When playing a team like Dublin somehow you have to turn the screw and generate a situation where their decision making is being forced under pressure,” McGuinness added. “Intensity is critical here.
“I felt the Donegal goal was exceptional the way they ran the ball with really quick hands. In many respects it was similar to the goal against Fermanagh in June.
“To their credit they did stick to the task until the very end even though leg-weary and I think that wasn’t lost on the Donegal supporters.”
Please click here to read Jim McGuinness’s column in full