With a background as he has in sports psychology, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness might be building the bricks of a siege mentality after getting a number of issues off his chest in the tunnel at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Having seen his side comfortably roller-coaster a flimsy challenge from Cavan to set up and Ulster semi-final with Tyrone in Clones on Saturday week, McGuinness was swarmed in dictaphones as he was asked to share his opinions on the game.
There was steam coming from the adjacent dressing room door as the Donegal players made their way to and from the showers in towels and flip-flops after another soggy afternoon of championship football. And although not one to go shouting the odds, McGuinness gave a calculated assessment of his feelings as to how Donegal are treated in the media. There was a little steam rising from him as well.
Donegal’s duvet as it was quirkily referred to easily snuffed out an unadventurous Antrim in a 0-10 to 1-7 win last month, which saw stalemate override large chunks of the contest played in wintry conditions. The aesthetics of that win were not pleasing on the eye but McGuinness claimed the criticism levelled at his players was way over the top.
“I think some people seem to feel Donegal is a county that they can poke fun at, but I don’t like the way my players have been disrespected by sections of the media and others like Liam Bradley,” McGuinness said.
“I don’t have an issue about what people write or say about our style of play and our general performance levels on any particular day and while everybody is entitled to their opinion, players are entitled to be afforded due respect, but the line that shouldn’t be crossed was crossed on a number of occasions in recent months.
“I will stand up for them. I don’t recall too many people giving us plaudits for some of the performances we put into the national league when we posting big scores in some terrible conditions.
“I don’t like my players or my county being disrespected. There’s a full season to be played but there was no word of our 2-18 in Derry or 17 points against Meath in Navan or the 1-17 against Antrim. If people want to criticise how we play I don’t have an issue, but when it gets to your players.
“There’s one thing being critical of Jim McGuinness or my style of football but there’s another thing in being disrespectful and we felt that Ryan Bradley was disrespected.”
McGuinness had a swipe at The Sunday Game, who chose Bradley as their man of the match against Antrim, although after a pre-recorded interview with the Buncrana forward, claimed it was the type of game when there wasn’t a deserving man of the match.
Des Cahill, whose wife is from Ballyshannon, the weekend before last added a remark that was perhaps more tongue-in-cheek than anything else. The presenter remarked that it was an unusual sign to see a Donegal hurling captain collecting a trophy at Croke Park, as Colm Breathnach did after the Lory Meagher final, before adding that some might also consider it unusual to see a Donegal football captain there too.
“RTE presented him with a trophy and then said there was no man of the match,” McGuinness said of Bradley. “Ryan Bradley has parents and a girlfriend, who were standing watching him accepting a trophy, as proud as punch, and then people later were saying ‘there was no man of the match!’ Last week they had a joke about us as well at the end of the programme. Donegal seems to be this county that everyone can have a good laugh at because we’re not that serious.
“Everyone’s got their job to do, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but when it’s disrespectful there’s a line to be drawn and I feel that line’s been crossed on a number of occasions in recent weeks.
“It’s a one-way street, we don’t get our opportunity to give our point of view but as a manager I’ve a duty of care to my players.”