The GAA world in Donegal was rocked on Tuesday afternoon with news that Jim McGuinnness’s backroom team had been removed.
Initially it was reported that Rory Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel has stepped down for personal reasons, but that was corrected by the press release by the Donegal GAA Co. Board that they had been contacted by Jim McGuinness to say that he was making changes to his backroom team.
That made it clear that Jim was making the decision to put a new team in place for his fourth year in charge.
The development came out of the blue and the players, more than anyone, seemed to be totally taken aback by the decision. There had been no indication of the development.
Jim McGuinness didn’t make up his mind that he was continuing in the post until Saturday last. Then the management met on Sunday and while we are not privy to what happened at that meeting, we can only presume that there were differences in the vision for the county’s footballers for 2014.
It can only be presumed that there were further contact between members of the management with Jim McGuinness/county board over Sunday night and Monday before the news broke on Tuesday afternoon.
It is believed that there were at least one addition being planned for the backroom team with the introduction of a new strength and fitness coach.
Donegal PRO Jim Quinn released a statement on the matter very late on Tuesday night after what was believed to be a number hours of contact between both parties to find an agreed text.
The statement which was released at 11.30 pm and many hours after the story broke read: “CLG Dhún na nGall were informed this morning by senior football team manager, Jim McGuinness of his intention to make changes in his management and support team. He subsequently confirmed that Rory Gallagher and Maxi Curran will not be involved in the Donegal management team for the 2014 season. Francie Friel, who was involved in the backroom team, will also not be involved in 2014.”
The statement went on to acknowledge the immense contribution made by Rory, Maxi and Francie to the success over recent years, and wished them well in the future.
County secretary Aodh Mairtin O’Fearraigh, did not wish to comment any further on the matter when contacted by the Democrat yesterday.
Rory Gallagher did not wish to comment on the matter either while John McGuinness was not answering calls.
The departure of Rory Gallagher, in particular, has created quite a stir, both in the county and outside, with the Belleek man being quickly linked to management posts in his home county of Fermanagh and neighbouring county Sligo, who are both managerless at the moment.
Gallagher was pretty well respected as a coach and trainer and was well liked by the players. Before joining the Donegal set up in January of 2011, he had played for his native Fermanagh and for a season with Cavan. He holds the scoring record for a single match in the Ulster Championship (3-9 v Monaghan) and he also won a Sigerson Cup medal with IT Sligo.
In recent years, apart from his work with the Donegal senior panel, he has been closely associated with Kilcar, as a mentor for a time and as coach.
It is expected that Maxi Curran and Francie Friel will continue their work as manager and assistant of the Donegal U-21 team. Curran has already put plans in place for an assault on the U-21 campaign next year after reaching the Ulster final last year against the odds.