Dublin the most defensive team in the country says ex-Donegal boss McGuinness

Jim McGuinness has compared the current Dublin to his own All-Ireland winning Donegal team of 2012
By Paul Keane

JIM McGuinness has described all-conquering Dublin as 'the most defensive team in the country' and admitted they remind him of his own All-Ireland winning Donegal team of 2012.

The Glenties man believes football is on an intriguing 'knife edge' at the moment as teams embrace 'the old Newcastle strategy where we just outscore everybody' and move away from more conservative tactics.

But he said six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin remain outliers in this regard, happily pulling all of their players back behind the ball when necessary and punishing teams on the break.

"I was questioning it this morning in my own head, when did we transition from football to hurling?" said McGuinness at the launch of Sky Sports' coverage of the GAA championships.

"Because all the scorelines now are 0-18, 1-20, 1-21, 4-21 or whatever the hell it is. It's crazy the way the game has gone.

"It's the old Newcastle strategy where we just outscore everybody. To be fair, the only team in the country to my mind that's not fully buying into that is Dublin.

"Dublin were probably the most defensive team in the country (last year), there's absolutely no doubt about that, they had 15 men inside their own 65 almost every time the opposition had the ball.

"The difference is that when Dublin get the ball they're absolutely brilliant, they're brilliant at keeping the ball, they're brilliant at running the ball, they're brilliant at transitioning, they're brilliant at kicking their scores."

For McGuinness, it's the perfect mix of defence and attack.

"You need both and Dublin have both at the minute - our 2012 team was not that far removed from the Dublin team now," he said.

McGuinness, who helped out a number of GAA teams in 2020 including Galway and Louth champions Naomh Mairtin, is currently focused exclusively on soccer, working with the Derry U19s.

The former Celtic coach, who had a brief spell as manager of Charlotte Independence in the US across late 2018 and 2019, has been linked with SSE Airticity League outfit Dundalk.

"I'm still in communication, other than that there's nothing to report in terms of...there wouldn't be anything to report anyway," said McGuinness.

"I'm not that kind of person, I'm a private person so I think it's important if you're communicating with anybody that it stays private and remains private until it goes somewhere and then if it goes somewhere obviously that's the time to open up and to have those conversations and we're not there yet."

On Donegal, McGuinness marvelled at Michael Murphy's continued excellence.

"He's been on a journey moving his body type and body shape from a really big, strong full-forward to a leaner sort of specimen that can play around the middle of the park," he said. "He now looks more like a midfielder than a full-forward, so the transformation has been huge."

McGuinness, however, didn't have good news for Tyrone fans.

"I don't think they can win the All-Ireland, I don't think they're good enough from eight up to win the All-Ireland," he said. "But can they beat any of the top teams on a given day? They could."

* Sky Sports have announced their 2021 GAA Championship fixtures, along with an all-star line-up of pundits, commentators and presenters for the season ahead. Sky Sports Arena will be the home of GAA, with a total of 18 fixtures broadcasting on the channel – 12 of which are exclusive to Sky Sports.

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