Who are we serving playing the Ulster SFC in the pouring rain and on soft pitches? Jim McGuinness

Donegal boss takes aim at pundits

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness Picture: Oliver McVeigh

JIM McGuinness has taken a swipe at pundits who continue to talk down the provincial Championships and National League finals and warned them to be careful what they wish for.

The Donegal manager is completely miffed by the discourse surrounding the inter-county calendar and whether or not there is room to play League finals given the condensed nature of the relatively new split season.

Speaking at Monday night’s men and women’s joint Ulster Championship launch at the University of Ulster Belfast, the 2012 All-Ireland winning manager said: “I’m a firm believer in you never truly cherish something or understand it fully until it is gone.”

“And so, I played in the Railway Cup and I loved it, I loved the level of competition and the players.

“People talked that competition down into oblivion. The same is going on now with the provincial Championships and the same is going on now with the Leagues.”

Reiterating the point that, historically, the Sam Maguire has generally been the preserve of two counties – Kerry and Dublin – McGuinness insisted that other competitions should therefore be retained and celebrated.

“Other counties pop in and pop out and they get a bit of success here and there, but it is basically owned by two counties,” said the Glenties man.

“Those other cups are very important to keep the passion flowing [for] the supporters on a big day, the Division Two and Division One competitions, the provincial Championships, all of these things.

“There are eight to 10 cups in a season. Maybe that can be a springboard to other things moving forward.

“If we take all of that away and focus on this (the Sam Maguire), historically only two teams have won it.

“And say some of our lads might potentially win a League medal this weekend in Croke Park.

“That might be the only thing they ever win in their life. Who knows who is going to be there this year or next year? This could be the pinnacle, going to Croke Park and winning a national title at HQ.”

McGuinness, who returned to the Donegal fold at the start of the season after a 10-year sabbatical, used Monday evening’s platform to express his disappointment at how the Ulster Championship is being damaged by the time of year it is being played while others argue it should be moved to February.

“The intensity is off the charts,” McGuinness said, replying to an observation of there literally being no space between the League and Championship.

“For managers, they are on tenterhooks with players in case they pick up any knocks. For players, it is very similar.

“Donegal finished last year and they’d a six-week gap until the start of the Championship and they played about six rounds of the Donegal Championship.

“The teams weren’t seeded and the team that went for it, Ballyshannon, finished top. Because it was an open draw, they played St Eunan’s Letterkenny when they qualified so there was no advantage to all the football they played.

“We are having the exact same situation with the Ulster Championship U20 competition at the moment.

“They are going to play four games and nobody is knocked out.”

McGuinness added: “Let’s not forget, the All-Ireland series is a round-robin so if we want to find weeks, we can find weeks.

“We want to find weeks at the expense of the Ulster Championship, at the expense of the League finals.

“Who are we serving? It is not serving managers, in my view, it isn’t serving players or supporters. They want to see their team win and it isn’t serving supporters going to Derry in three weeks in the pouring rain with a soft pitch. That doesn’t serve anybody.”