Jim McGuinness aware of Armagh hunger for an Ulster title

Orchardmen have not lifted the Anglo Celt Cup since 2008

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Donegal boss Jim McGuinness acknowledged that there is “huge hunger” in Armagh to win an Ulster title.

The sides meet in Sunday’s Ulster final in Clones with the Orchard county looking to secure their first provincial title since 2008.

McGuinness guided his native county to three Ulster titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

He witnessed Armagh giving Donegal a hammering in Crossmaglen in an All-Ireland qualifer in 2010 just before he took his county to its first provincial title since 1992 and is aware of the hunger for success among Kieran McGeeney’s players.

“It’s a huge game for Armagh and they have a brilliant management team with a brilliant team of players.

“The hunger that is in that county for success is huge.

“They have been knocking on the door for this past number of years, beaten on penalties twice and it’s a massive game for Armagh and a massive game for ourselves and, not speaking for the other camp, I am sure that they are just focused on getting ready for what will hopefully be a brilliant occasion in Clones.”

That 2010 defeat to the Orchardmen acted as a catalyst for much of Donegal’s recent success and McGuinness acknowledges it as having a major bearing on his decision to the manager’s job later that year.

“Watching that game and being hungry to get involved and seeing something in the Donegal players and in believing in them and it is full circle now again with both teams meeting again,” he said.

“Armagh bring great passion and colour and will probably bring 15,000 people to Clones and it has the makings of an old school Ulster final and we need to match that.”

When asked if he had been practicing penalties, he laughed and said: “No, we just have not had the time at the minute as the time frames are so tight and so short and trying to get the message in for the next team tactically is very difficult.

“You are talking about two training sessions last week… one really.

“But the turnarounds are quick and trying to get all the pieces relayed to the lads in the first instance and delivered on the pitches is the big challenge and with this game for us and Armagh, we have had the luxury of playing each other twice already.

Andy Murnin and Michael Langan compete for a kickout during Armagh's draw with Donegal. Picture: John Merry
Andy Murnin and Michael Langan compete for a kickout during Armagh's draw with Donegal. Picture: John Merry

“An odd tactic might change here and there and maybe Armagh will come up with something different, maybe we will come up with something different.

“But in the main it is the same lads.

The Donegal manager has previously be critical of the compressed county season, which has led to quick turnarounds between Ulster Championship games.

Their extra-time victory over Tyrone in the semi-final came just a week after their win over reigning champions Derry and McGuinness believes this can affect the spectacle for fans.

“It has an impact on the performance as because you need time to get your team right and we would have had no eyeballs on Tyrone at all until that game,” he said.

“It was difficult, and a second week can make an awful lot of difference to a game.

“I think that is the part in the GAA that has been lost.

“When Donegal played Derry eight or 10 years ago, you had that break of three weeks, a full week to absorb it before you could start moving your thoughts to the next game and what are they about.

“I have said it before, the amount of games that are played, even on a Sunday night, for the person who is watching it, it is almost too much.

“And part of the magic of the Championship was being able to absorb it, going to Dublin on a big day and experiencing the big day and talking about it in your communities for the week before.

“It’s hard to quantify that intangible but it is significant, I think.