Jim McGuinness says Sam 'sideshow' won't derail mission

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI

I don't listen to the radio. I don't read the papers. I don't watch the Sunday Game - Donegal manager Jim McGuinness

Jim McGuinness sighs at the end of a long press night in Ballybofey.

As the last in line, the BBC Sport Northern Ireland correspondent jokes whether it will be possible to come up with a different line of questioning.

"You'll be doing well," chuckles the 39-year-old in response.

McGuinness has been unfailingly accommodating on this evening - just as he invariably is when the men and women of the press assemble for these increasingly regular gatherings of the Donegal squad.

Yet, if the Glenties man is to be believed, he won't be reading any of his words from this evening in print or hearing them on the airwaves as the All-Ireland Football Final approaches.

Kevin Cassidy may indeed ruefully wonder who relayed his offending words back to the Donegal boss last November.

McGuinness says that his media avoidance helps in "just trying to retain my own focus on what's important".

"Everybody has got an opinion and everybody is entitled to their opinion.

"(But) People's opinions can sometimes interfere in people's (players') focus. Sometimes you see players and there's a two-page spread in the Sunday papers and they don't go out an deliver on that Sunday.

"I like to keep it simple. The boys like to keep it simple."

McGuinness has just been answering a gentle query about whether he's heard Donegal's unofficial 2012 All-Ireland Final Youtube anthem, 'Jimmy's Winning Matches'.

And he had begun the stream of consciousness with the phrase,"I don't go in for that".

Granted, the "sideshow is fantastic for the supporters and even for my family, and the players' families but it's not for us. Our job is a different one".

As it happens, McGuinness appears confident that his players' minds won't be diverted by all the hype.

"I'd have good confidence in the lads in regards to that. They are a very focused bunch."

The Glenties man was on the sub's bench when Sam Maguire made to the Donegal hills for the only time 20 years ago but McGuinness insists that harking back to that success has not been part of his armoury in the build-up to Sunday's decider.

"I don't remember a lot about it. When you are that age, it's very much going with the flow. You're not really switched on to a lot of things going on.

"It was a fantastic experience. Being in the dressing-room before the game, the cup coming into the dressing-room and the homecoming."

But lessons learned? Seemingly not.

Almost in contradiction, McGuinness points out that he had already begun his coaching career at that stage.

"I was deeply interested in coaching even before the All-Ireland and had been coaching the under-12s in the club and formulating ideas in my head.

"I don't know why and where that came from. Probably to my detriment, I was player-manager with the club three or four times during my intercounty career.

"That was probably too much to take on but I always enjoyed that side of it."

McGuinness explains the fascination of coaching as "the journey".

"You start at the beginning of the career and you have a plan in your head and you have your players.

"You formulate your ideas and you start working with them and the players.

"Even if it's a lad who wasn't making the team and ends up breaking into the team and having a great season, it's a beautiful thing seeing someone develop and being happy.

"At the level we're at now, we've a very, very classy group of players who are very, very enjoyable to work with.

"They are very focused on their training and they all want to improve and develop so you are trying to facilitate and help them.

"And myself and Rory (Gallagher) are trying to get the best out of them as individuals and as a collective."

McGuinness took the Donegal job in the autumn of 2010 a couple of months after the county had suffered one of its most embarrassing championship defeats of the modern era in a qualifier horror show against Armagh at Crossmaglen

And while no-one was surprised to hear the new manager immediately talking about the talent being there to challenge for an Ulster title, few believed that the provincial honour would be achieved within 10 months.

McGuinness laughs that he clearly had "that vision because I went for the job again after already being turned down for it on three occasions".

"You have to have a belief that the players aren't what they are being painted in the public and in the media.

"I felt if I got my hands on them I could do something with them."

Asked about his assessment of Sunday's opposition, McGuinness points to the similiarities in the development of the two teams.

"We've both won two provincial titles in a row and they are obviously very, very hungry and I would hope we're very hungry too.

"But I was very impressed with them against Dublin. There was a period during the first half when you were thinking, 'these fellows are almost unplayable'.

"Their level of play was really, really top drawer."

But that still doesn't shake McGuinness' conviction that his side can triumph this weekend.

"It's a gilt-edged opportunity for us. I don't believe you can win an All-Ireland without winning a couple of provincial titles.

"And it's human nature to gravitate towards an All-Ireland once you have done something at provincial level once or twice."

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