Joe Kernan, the former Armagh manager, has reminded those who spent their time laughing at Donegal over recent years that no one’s laughing at them now.
In a Belfast Telegraph column, Kernan commented: “Donegal were the laughing stock of football on occasions with tales of their socialising – particularly after defeats — doing the rounds, thus heaping further embarrassment on the squad. They became proficient at celebrating defeats, indeed.
“But those days are firmly in the past. It would be difficult indeed to find a more driven, focused, fixated side than Jim McGuinness’s outfit.”
In a hugely positive piece on Jim McGuinness’s side, the Crosmaglen man adds:
“If patience is a virtue, Donegal have had it in spades. Time and again they reached Ulster finals and semi-finals in the past twelve years only to suffer excruciating heartbreak.
“McGuinness has single-handedly changed all that.
“When they won the Ulster title last year, the manager made it clear that he did not want this to be regarded as a flash in the pan.
“The chances are that back to back titles will now accrue and this will pave the way for a concerted shot at the All-Ireland title. It’s worth remembering that Donegal are now an even wiser, fitter and even more ambitious outfit than they were last term when they came within a whisker of reaching the All-Ireland final.
“Like everyone else in football, McGuinness is continuing to learn his trade except perhaps that he is absorbing lessons at a faster rate than most other folk.
“When his side played Dublin in the All-Ireland final last year they enjoyed a three-point lead and should have been more than capable of pushing on to record what would have been a fairy-tale victory.
“Instead they retreated into a defensive shell and lost a game that been there for the taking by the incongruous margin of 0-8 to 0-6. I don’t think that we will see the same safety-first mentality prevail to the same extent this time round.
“Donegal have acquired a sharper edge and a greater variety to what was a previously latent attacking concept and this has already taken them to championship victories over Cavan, Derry and Tyrone. If they win the Ulster title, they will have done it the hard way. After all, Kerry won several All-Ireland titles by playing just five games!
“With a number of players waiting in the wings to sample action, McGuinness clearly has the resources at his disposal to keep Donegal at the top.
“I cannot see them being easily dislodged from their perch and if as expected they retain their Ulster crown, then this will provide further impetus for their drive for All-Ireland glory.
“Success indeed comes in cycles and right now Donegal have their foot on the pedal.
“It would be difficult to find a more driven, focused, fixated side than Jim McGuinness’ team.”