Jim McGuinness on Celtic and if he will manage GAA again
FORMER Donegal manager Jim McGuinness says he has doubts over whether the GAA could ever sustain the idea of professionalism in their games.
In an exclusive interview with The Irish News, which appears in two parts today and tomorrow, McGuinness discusses – among other things – funding within the GAA, club fixtures, his life with Celtic and his punditry work.
Despite the GPA’s new expenses deal for players being viewed by many as a step towards
semi-professionalism, and many coaches at all levels within the game being remunerated, McGuinness feels that the numbers simply don’t add up to take it any further.
Cahair O’Kane (CO'K) : We’ll start with Celtic. You did your UEFA ‘B’ Licence last year – what’s next?
Jim McGuinness (JMcG): “At the moment I’m coaching. When I came in, it would have been as performance consultant and working with first team players in the Academy, but the role has changed in the last year.
"It’s probably 90 per cent coaching now, and 10 per cent meeting players in one-to-ones. It’s a bit of shift but it’s been really good.
"I’ve enjoyed getting the experience of coaching on one hand, and getting the badges parallel with that as well. All being well, I’ll be starting my ‘A’ Licence in April.”
CO’K: Is coaching what you’d prefer?
JMcG: “I like the psychological stuff as well.
"You’re meeting players and trying to clear the decks for them and give them an opportunity to concentrate fully on what’s important in their life, which is hopefully going to be football.
"When you’re doing that all the time and your background’s in coaching, it’s been a real breath of fresh air to be coaching to be honest.
"I’ve been doing that for the last year or so and I’m enjoying working with players again. It’s a different thing.
"When I come off the phone to you, I have a meeting on Man City. We play them in the under-19s Champions League on Wednesday night, and we’re looking at what they do, how they do it, their kickouts and building from the back, their transition to attack.
"All these things are important in terms of how we set up our team and how we train the team in the lead-up to the match on Wednesday.
"We started to touch on it at training today, we started to shape training around what we’re going to come up against.
"They’re a top quality team, looking at the videos of their first game against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
"It’s great for the players to go into those types of games, against Barcelona, Man City and Mönchengladbach, and great for myself in terms of my own development.”
CO’K: When you joined Celtic you were still back and forward with Donegal. Was it a case of you being able to bring ideas across, or were you more taking ideas back to Donegal?
JMcG: “A lot of the counties that are competing to win the All-Ireland are at a very high level, and they’re doing things slightly different and have ideas that aren’t within soccer.
"Professional sport is professional sport; it’s about money, resources, the physical, the human, the facilities.
"It’s about the opportunity to spend time with players on an ongoing basis, to look at their periodisation and their strength and fitness over a longer period of time, and how to develop that.
"Then you have the day-to-day stuff, the training and preparation for games. There are probably things from both sides.
"There are things I would have been doing with Donegal that probably aren’t going on within soccer that you think to yourself ‘that could actually work’, but teams aren’t doing it because it’s not part of the culture of the sport.
"From that point of view, it’s interesting for me. There’s a huge amount for me to learn in terms of the game itself.
"I’m coming into a different culture of how the game’s played, and how I would perceive the game and how I would look to develop the game myself if I was managing a team.
"These are all things that are in the mix and very fluid at the minute.
"I’m getting that exposure on one hand, and you’re simultaneously doing your badges and that provokes those thought processes as well.”
CO’K: Is there a sense that the Gaelic chapter of your life, having won the All-Ireland and Ulster titles, is done and therefore is Celtic, or soccer itself, something you see as a job for the rest of your life?
JMcG: “Not necessarily. I’ll see where I’m at at the moment takes me. I’m just trying to be the best I can be.
"After that, you can be happy with the consequences if you like. If it’s a thing where you come up against a brick wall and think that I’m not able to progress or develop the way I want, that’s fine.
"You’ll never know until you go down that road. I’m just really enjoying learning and developing and growing every day.
"I’m getting really good exposure within the club to that. Between that and working through the badges, I’m formulating my own idea in terms of my own personal philosophy.
"It’s not as if you have this grand plan in your head. You’re just trying to keep moving forward and see where it takes you.”
CO’K: Terry Hyland said recently that he couldn’t sustain managing Cavan and running a hardware shop at the same time. It’s a massive workload. Would you be in favouring of structuring payments to managers and making it a full-time job? Or does that go too far away from the amateur status?
JMcG: “The key for me would be sustainability. It’s one thing to say ‘I think that could happen, we could make ourselves professional’, but for me, you’ve got to know that it can happen and work over the longer term.
"I’m not talking five or 10 years. And I’m not sure if there’s enough chimney pots in Ireland to make that happen.
"A lot of this is about supply and demand. If you have 20 million of a population and you’re selling your national sport, and the advertising around that is a €40m deal, then you’re thinking to yourself that’s sustainable.
"There’d be enough there for coaches to be paid and players to be paid at inter-county level.
"You look at what’s going on in Dublin’s deal with AIG, Cork’s deal with Chill Insurance, there are fairly significant commercial deals being done within the GAA.
"Can you, in the future, create a situation where all those deals roll into one for every county team, and create sustainability? I don’t honestly know.
"Once you decide you’re going to go down that road, you can’t come back up it.
"You’ve got to be sure that it’s the right thing to do. You have to be sure about sustainability and, at the moment, I just wouldn’t be sure about that.”
CO’K: A lot of players retire and come out of the bubble of inter-county football and then start to stick up for club players. Alan Brogan was the latest example last week. Players in that bubble perhaps don’t realise how bad the situation is for club players. Does it need people from within the inter-county game to really stand up, or do you see club players’ situation ever really improving?.
JMcG: “I totally agree. I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve been a county player and went on to manage my club on a number of occasions, and then was a county manager.
"You see both sides of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an under-12 manager, they see their team as the most important team in the club.
"It’s the same for the club manager and the same for the county manager, theirs is the most important team.
"For me, it’s about the schedule, and how we can create a framework that does provide fairness.
"Sometimes it can be difficult to get that balance based on the number of competitions that are ongoing throughout the calendar. If you look at the Ulster Championship, and I proposed this myself as part of a restructure, is there an opportunity to take four weeks off that competition?
"Is there an opportunity to do something similar with the National League? And the All-Ireland series – three weeks and four weeks between a game? Can we squeeze the competitions but still protect them, and then open up X amount of dates within the calendar that are designated for club football?
"That balance isn’t there at the moment. In terms of fairness, in my mind, the best thing is to create something that everybody’s happy to sign up to.
"When it’s signed up to, that’s it, it doesn’t change. The difficulty is when players are told there’s going to be no football, then the football’s on, then it’s off again, and people don’t know where they stand.
"When you know where you stand, it’s a wee bit easier.”
The Sky Sports pundit, who also writes a weekly Gaelic football column in a national newspaper, also discusses the Association’s decision to sell live television rights to a subscription channel and his relationship with former rival James Horan.
McGuinness, who last year undertook his Uefa ‘B’ Licence and reveals that he will begin his ‘A’ Licence in April, also says that moving into a coaching role at Celtic has been “a breath of fresh air”.
Originally employed as a performance consultant and working with the first team, the former Tír Chonaill boss is currently coaching with the Scottish giants’ U19 team.
Jim McGuinness is promoting a brand new stage show, Celtic - The Musical which opens at Millenium Forum tonight and will run all week. It tells the story of the club’s history and will run for a week. Tickets available now from the Forum Box Office 028 71 264455 or at www.millenniumforum.co.uk
TOMORROW: The second part of our feature interview with Jim McGuinness, where he talks about funding in the GAA, his punditry work, his relationship with former rival turned colleague James Horan and Saturday’s All-Ireland final replay