Jim McGuinness: ‘Last year’s Ulster final loss is something Donegal need to rectify’

Alan Foley

Reporter:

Alan Foley

Jim McGuinness: ‘Last year’s Ulster final loss is something Donegal need to rectify’
Daniel Kahneman, the Israeli-American psychologist who won the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, put it perfectly when he said: “Hindsight bias makes surprises vanish.”

Daniel Kahneman, the Israeli-American psychologist who won the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, put it perfectly when he said: “Hindsight bias makes surprises vanish.”

Kahneman probably wasn’t too aware that over-whelming favourites Donegal were facing Monaghan in the Ulster final 12 months ago, just like he won’t be tuning in on Sunday when they meet again.

Last summer Monaghan altered the landscape of the entire football championship with their ravenous 0-13 to 0-7 win over Donegal.

It was a result that nobody, well certainly very few, would’ve predicted in the lead-up to the St Tiernach’s Park showpiece.

Afterwards, though, the theories abounded to, just like Kahneman uttered, make the surprise vanish.

Donegal had suffered relegation from the Allianz League Division One, scored their goals at the right time in the 2-10 to 0-10 win over Tyrone in the Ulster quarter-final and fell over the line against Down, winning 0-12 to 0-9 in the last four.

On the other hand, Monaghan, as we were later told, had developed a winning habit in the Allianz League Division Three and shown enough mettle to pip neighbours Cavan in the Ulster semi-final.

They also had something of a hoodoo over Donegal, having not lost to them in Ulster since the tempestuous semi-final in Irvinestown back in 1983.

Hindsight, apparently, had made the surprise vanish.

In many respects, Donegal’s six-point loss in the final was the day the music died.

The perceived streak of invincibility that Jim McGuinness and his panel had contrived was pricked forever.

A patched-up win six days later over Laois in Carrick-on-Shannon granted a stay of execution. Mayo obliterated Donegal 4-17 to 1-10 in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

McGuinness admitted last week that the pain of losing that Ulster final, which shredded the aspirations of an unprecedented Donegal provincial three-in-a-row, still hangs.

But it’s not a problem with Monaghan as, for McGuinness, it’s something Donegal need to rectify.

“There’s a sense of hurt cause we lost to Monaghan,” he said. “But it’s nothing to do with Monaghan now, it’s to do with us trying to retain a title. It’s about a game of football and a game of football we want to win.”

Whereas there are multiple theories over how to revitalise the seemingly outdated provincial structure, McGuinness is arguably it’s most loyal advocate.

Last year’s loss would’ve reminded him of three defeats he suffered as a player on Ulster final day.

“If you only play in one Ulster final in your life, the shock of losing that is horrendous,” he added.

“I was fortunate enough to be involved in 1992 but I was there in ‘93, ‘98, 2002 .

“The losing dressingroom in Clones is not a place you want to be. We have do all in our power to make sure we’re not in it this year.”

Donegal aren’t invincible any more but they’re moving in the right direction.

A near fully fit panel will travel to Clones to right the wrongs of 2013.

But so too are Monaghan, who have carried their title commendably, showing the swagger of champions having ousted Tyrone and Armagh.

Donegal set about their business quietly, with encouraging victories over Derry and Antrim thus far.

“I’ve always said it was more like managing a situation than a team,” McGuinness said of last year.

“You were trying to navigate through, while at the moment it feels like we’re preparing a team for a match. That’s what I like about it now.

“It can’t guarantee anything but it’s a good place to be in terms of preparation. “

“The title is there for two teams and it’s about whoever wants it the most and gets the most things right on the day.”

With both teams entering the final as equals in the betting shops, there will be no surprises, whether vanishing or plain to see, no matter what anyone tries to tell you afterwards. There’s no need for hindsight or theories. It’s about the here; the now.

It’s all about getting what’s been put into practice on the field. That’s where Donegal and McGuinness thrive. Come Sunday evening, he’ll want to make sure Donegal are still going in the right direction.