Could Rory Gallagher and Martin McHugh be the dream team for Donegal?

Could Rory Gallagher and Martin McHugh be the dream team for Donegal?
The shock of finding out that Jim McGuinness will not be Donegal manager for 2015 is still difficult to come to terms with.

The shock of finding out that Jim McGuinness will not be Donegal manager for 2015 is still difficult to come to terms with.

When the news broke late on Friday night, the wave of sadness left Donegal a gloomy place early on Saturday morning.

The respect in which McGuinness was held and the way he represented the county was to the fore but what is more important he took Donegal to the top table of championship football for the four years he was in charge.

Now, the process has to begin to find a replacement and given the success which Jim McGuinness has achieved, that will not be an easy task.

The Donegal Co. Board have their monthly meeting tonight in Ballybofey and there will be an Executive meeting beforehand, and chairman, Sean Dunnion, will have one big item on the agenda.

“I must confess team manager was not on the agenda, but that has changed now and it will be the number one item on the agenda,” said chairman Dunnion.

“We will start the process at that meeting. We are also scouting for an U-21 football manager and the minor manager term was for just one year with a review at the end of it. So we have a lot of things to sort out over the next few weeks.

“There is some urgency with 2015 just around the corner and I think that is another reason why Jim made the decision as quickly as he did. We have a couple of weeks to get the process in place and I would hope to have a new manager in place by the end of the month and in plenty of time for the start of the new season.”

There has already been plenty of speculation as to who will succeed Jim McGuinness. There are obvious candidates like former senior manager Declan Bonner and last year’s U-21 management of Maxi Curran and Rory Gallagher.

Rory Gallagher has already played a part in the Donegal success, being involved for the first three years with Jim McGuinness. It was interesting to note that current Naomh Conaill manager, Paddy Campbell (a former teammate of McGuinness) feels that Gallagher is best placed to succeed Jim McGuinness and he is suggesting that a senior figure like Martin McHugh would be a good assistant.

At present Rory Gallagher is manager of Kilcar and has a close relationship with McHugh. The pair have links going back to Sligo IT where Rory was captain when McHugh managed Sligo to Sigerson success in 2002.

There could be others from the two teams of mentors which have assisted Jim McGuinness over the past four years - Damian Diver, Paul McGonigle and John Duffy.

Names from outside the county have also been mentioned, but it is felt that it will be a last resort to go in that direction.

But for now, most of those being speculated on are keeping their heads low.

Anyone taking on the position would probably need to take it for a four year term, given that quite a number of the Donegal panel are coming towards the end of their careers.

The draw for the various provincial championships - including the Ulster championship - are due to be made live on RTE 2 television on Thursday night at 7 p.m. If Donegal were to get a favourable draw, then maybe it could be easier to find a replacement for McGuinness.

See Page 38 for reaction to McGuinness stepping down