‘It’s a big step for us’: Jim McGuinness revels in Celtic Park win as Donegal ambush Ulster champions Derry

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Derry 0-17 Donegal 4-11

Jim McGuinness got the better of Mickey Harte once more as Donegal defeated north-west nei.ghbours Derry on Saturday night. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Jim McGuinness got the better of Mickey Harte once more as Donegal defeated north-west nei.ghbours Derry on Saturday night. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

CELTIC Park was still in shock as Jim McGuinness savoured the break-out win of his second coming as Donegal manager.

Just a couple of goals across eight Division Two games, including the League final, then four in one night as the reigning Ulster champions found themselves victims of an almighty ambush in their own back yard.

What an incredible statement to make on McGuinness’s return to the provincial stage, a decade after leading the Tir Chonaill to the Anglo-Celt.

The suspicion was always that the Glenties man would have something up his sleeve, with the targeting of Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch among the manoeuvres mooted in the days leading into Saturday evening’s eagerly-anticipated derby clash.

But few could have predicted that booming kick-outs – two from Shaun Patton and the last from the boot of his replacement, Gavin Mulreany – would do such damage as Lynch, left in no man’s land, was left to watch while the ball dropped into the net three times, twice from Daire O Baoill and once from Jamie Brennan.

An Oisin Gallen penalty completed the quad as Donegal ran riot to bring a brutal end to Derry’s three in-a-row hopes, with McGuinness maintaining his winning record against Mickey Harte; the former Tyrone boss has yet to see either his Red Hand or Derry sides manage a Championship goal against a McGuinness-managed outfit.

“I suppose it is no different from any other year,” said the Donegal manager.

“Once you get the date it is the only date that matters is the first round of the Championship and you have to prepare and plan for that.

“From the day the draw was made, you are planning for it. It wouldn’t have made a difference who it was it is the game you are targeting the first round of the Ulster championship. It is always a special thing for players.

“We did kick it well today, we kept it well, there was a lot of transitional moments in the game and we capitalised on a lot of them with goals, which is unusual.

“There’s not that many normally but we did manufacture some of them, some of them fell by chance. From my own point of view it was great that they defended really well and attacked really well and supported each other in those attacks and made them sharp, fast and aggressive.

“We are delighted to get through, it’s a big step for us but I personally feel that Derry, Dublin and Kerry are the top three teams in the country.”

As for the conflicting fortunes of the two men wearing number one jerseys, McGuinness added: “The kick-outs are almost everything in the game now; it is incredibly difficult to shut goalkeepers down. It is just so difficult. A lot of teams are looking at that.

“They are also looking at, if that is the case, we need options B and C as well and a lot of teams have those options. Derry done serious damage against Dublin over the top themselves and we did damage today.

“They are just moments in the game and sometimes that ball drops to you, sometimes it drops to them and sometimes teams put a lot of time and effort into trying to make them work.

“Derry can make your suffer, the top teams can make you suffer. We had an idea of what we wanted to do and we wanted to stick to that. You have to keep working and believing in all moments whether you are up or down.”