Football

Jim McGuinness Donegal return could be rubber-stamped in next week

Jim McGuinness led Donegal to the 2012 All-Ireland title. Picture by Mark Marlow
Jim McGuinness led Donegal to the 2012 All-Ireland title. Picture by Mark Marlow Jim McGuinness led Donegal to the 2012 All-Ireland title. Picture by Mark Marlow

JIM McGuinness’s return to Donegal could be rubber-stamped in the next week – with county board officials understood to be confident they have finally got their man.

The Glenties man, who famously led Donegal to All-Ireland glory in 2012, has been sounded out on other occasions since his previous reign came to an end nine years ago, instead opting to pursue a soccer career that brought him to Celtic, China with Beijing Guoan and Charlotte Independence in the USA.

Since moving back to Donegal, McGuinness has worked with the Derry City U19s in recent years, and was heavily linked with a role at League of Ireland outfit Dundalk as well as the top job at Finn Harps last November.

However, after a tumultuous year on and off the field, a five person selection committee – including Donegal legends Anthony Molloy and Martin McHugh - was set up to find a manager once Aidan O’Rourke confirmed he wouldn’t be continuing in the wake of the Tir Chonaill’s preliminary quarter-final exit to Tyrone in June.

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McGuinness was their top target and, having initially been reticent about returning to inter-county management while those soccer ambitions remained intact, it appears his thinking has changed.

Indeed, it is understood he was approached by some senior members of the Donegal panel in recent weeks about the possibility of returning for a second stint at the helm. McGuinness was open to the idea and has since been in talks with county board officials, though a handful of issues remain unresolved.

Earlier this year McGuinness revealed that he had offered to get involved with Donegal for the 2023 season as part of a management team involving Rory Kavanagh and Karl Lacey, when the county board was searching for a successor to Declan Bonner.

Speaking on The Irish Examiner Gaelic football podcast, McGuinness said he had also agreed to help out with the academy U14s before Lacey stepped down from his position as Donegal’s head of academy development.

McGuinness subsequently got involved in a coaching capacity with the Down footballers this year.

“Obviously, the Donegal job came up in the summer,” he said back in March.

“There was a lot of people looking for me to get involved behind the scenes, wondering would I take something on or do something. When that happens, it is difficult. Obviously, your heart and soul is where you are from.

“It was very difficult for me not to take it… I said I was available to do something with the team or help with the team. Rory and Karl were considering that situation, I was going to go along with them.

“Then when the Rory thing didn’t work out, they never came back to me. We never had another conversation.”

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McGuinness also spoke of his frustration that, the night Paddy Carr was announced as Donegal’s new manager last October, “everybody that was interviewed for the job was name-checked”.

“It was almost like they were sending a signal,” he said, “we have asked all these guys and they don’t want it. As if you were turning your back on your county. That was not the case.

“I was willing to help and trying to help. The door was closed in many respects on me and the word was filtered out at the county board meeting that all these people had been spoken to. I didn’t feel that was a true reflection of what happened behind the scenes.” 

Carr ended up leaving the position just five months into the job as Donegal dropped out of Division One, with Armagh All-Ireland winner Aidan O’Rourke taking over for the remainder of the campaign.