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Ulster SFC Final: McGuinness & McGeeney continue 30-year rivalry


Comment on the photo, Jim McGuinness and Kieran McGeeney have battled it out for more than 30 years on the field and on the sidelines.

  • author, John Haughey
  • Role, BBC Sport NI

Ulster Senior Football Final – Armagh v Donegal

place: St. Turnach’s Garden, Replicants date: Sunday 12 May Throw in: 16:00 GMT

coverage: Watch on BBC Two NI and BBC iPlayer; Live text commentary with game clips, reports and highlights on the BBC Sport website

Jim McGuinness and Kieran McGeeney have met on the field and on the sidelines for more than 30 years, but while the occasional word may have been uttered in the heat of battle, the Donegal boss says his respect for Mullaghbawn has never wavered.

The duo’s final side clash will be in Sunday’s Ulster senior football final in Clones as McGuinness 2.0 aims to deny McGeeney’s Armagh side the silverware they crave.

Possibly the most memorable falling out between the pair came in the opening year of Ter Chonel’s first McGuinness reign in 2011 when some chatter in the pre-match media from then-Kildare coach McGeeney ahead of an All-Ireland quarter-final clash was about tactical errors. Donegal attackers have drawn the ire of a Glenties man.

“Kieran McGeeney was an exceptional player. He didn’t cry or complain. We weren’t too impressed as a group to read that. We’re glad the referee didn’t take the bait.” said a visibly angry McGuinness after a sensational point by Kevin Cassidy (remember him) earned Donegal a point A dramatic extra time victory over the Lilywhites.

“The place to do your work is on the training ground. Work there, try to beat the competition there… not in the media.”

Nearly 13 years later during an Allianz Football League Division 2 match at the Sports Grounds in February, it was clear that their competitiveness had by no means dried up as they kept the linesman busy with observations of an entire contest that ultimately ended in a draw.

But given McGuinness’s comments about McGeeney on tour, such incidents only indicate the respect in which he is held by his fellow veteran, who is the longest-serving inter-county manager having been appointed to the Armagh job in 2015.

Armagh’s fitness ‘maybe up to the manager’

Speaking at a media evening organized for the Donegal press last Friday night after he and McGuinness had skipped the Ulster GAA media afternoon earlier in the week, McGuinness was perhaps the one to spark controversy when he spoke of the Armagh boss assembling a physical team in his image. Private.

Referring to how Donegal were often muscled and overworked by the bigger, stronger and fitter Tyrone and Armagh teams during his playing days, McGuinness said the following:

“It’s unusual now to have that big of a physical appearance across a team, but I would suggest that this Armagh team is probably one of the biggest and most physical teams in the country.

“Maybe it’s down to the manager. The manager was one of the more physical players.”

One can immediately imagine a smile forming on McGeeney’s face upon hearing those words followed by a few quick remarks.

But after taking a few jabs, McGuinness quickly moved into admiration mode as he spoke of the “huge amount” the Armagh manager has achieved in his sport.

“A lot of it comes from your personal motivation. And that doesn’t just disappear and walk out the door.

“He brings that to the table every night with those guys and obviously he’s built high-level teams in the backroom as well. Everyone has a specific job that adds value.”

The final point was another interesting observation from McGuinness as he referred to the management team which includes Kieran Donaghy, Ciaran McIver and finally Conleth Gilligan.

Comment on the photo, Jim McGuinness says Donegal’s All-Ireland qualifier against Armagh at Crossmaglen played a big part in his decision to apply for the county job for a third time

In many ways, Armagh football has been pivotal to McGuinness’s footballing journey.

He says Joe Kiernan and his management team at Armagh in the early 2000s produced a model of conditioning and tactics which Tyrone quickly followed before McGuinness appeared to have taken it to a whole new level during his first spell in charge in Donegal.

“they [Armagh] They were stronger than us and they clearly proved it from a practical point of view.

“From a football point of view, we’ve always had a lot of belief in ourselves. [But] Tactically, they were ahead of the curve.

“When you start getting all those bubbles together, there’s a real mental strength that comes with that. You know you’re in good shape. You know there’s a plan and you know when to fit into that and that brings your mental strength.”

Interestingly, McGuinness also says Donegal’s 2010 All-Ireland qualifier loss to Armagh in Crossmaglen was pivotal for him taking over as county manager two months later despite having turned down the position on two previous occasions.

“That match was an important point in my decision-making process.

“I watched that game and I was hungry to participate, see something in it and believe in it. It’s full circle again with the two teams meeting each other again.”

As for Sunday’s contest, McGuinness does not buy the suggestion that Armagh are under more pressure than Donegal as they aim to end a 16-year wait for an Ulster title after all their near misses on the big stage over the past two years. Seasons.

“We’ve been to a lot of finals over the last 10 or 15 years, but it’s been a long time since we’ve won one now,” the Donegal coach said.

“We want to do that, and Armagh have been building this team for a number of years now and they probably feel ready to go and win it. Even though we come from slightly different places, it’s exactly the same in both camps.”

And the Donegal coach certainly disagrees with the decidedly naive comment made by Armagh selector, Ciaran McIver, before last year’s Ulster Championship that “real football doesn’t start” until the Super 16s.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to win the Ulster Championship. I was lucky to do it in my first year [as player] I’ve never won another title, so I understand the gravity of this game and what it means to everyone, what it means to me, the management, the players and the people of Donegal.

“I’m aware of that [Super 16s] The draw was made, I watched the combinations and never watched them again.

“It doesn’t matter to be honest with you whether it’s Derry or Tyrone or whoever in the group stage after that, it doesn’t matter.

“You’re going to be in the All-Ireland competition. You’re going up against good teams.”

As of last Friday night, McGuinness said his team had not been practicing penalty kicks, but given his attention to detail, it is hard to imagine that not being corrected this week.



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