The dust had barely settled on Donegal’s victory over Tyrone on Saturday evening in Clones and Donegal manager was already relishing the thought of a return to St. Tiernach’s Park and a final meeting with Down.
But first the big Naomh Conaill man reflected on the two point win over Tyrone and a second successive Ulster semi-final victory over the Red Hands.
“That was serious stuff for long periods and it wasn’t easy getting through or penetrating their defence. Tactically was a tough battle too,” said a beaming McGuinness at the final whistle.
“There was so much intensity in the mind as well as in the body it was draining. It was a serious challenge. But the good thing is that we were up to it. I thought we showed great composure in the second half to take the game to Tyrone.
“There were so many questions asked of us by Tyrone, but we knew they were going to ask those questions. They showed unbelievable composure to work the ball into good positions and not be silly in possession and to pick of scores at the right time.
“We had to ask questions and try switch the play to open them and turn them as much as possible. The more the game went on the more we were able to open it up and that was encouraging. We had to play with more width and depth and keep prodding and looking for openings,” insisted the Donegal boss, who added that Donegal are still developing as a team.
“Once we saw them set up with seven in defence we knew the challenge that was ahead of us and obviously they had a serious amount of work done in training to make life difficult for us.
“It was a huge challenge, but I’m very happy with the way we came through it, especially the younger boys. The older lads, Colm, Neil and Rory have played a lot of games and have faced a lot of scenarios, but for the younger lads to come through that was very encouraging. It is great to get the win and be out the other side of it and be facing into three weeks of training for an Ulster final.”
He also spoke about the team selection and how he had lost some sleep before finally deciding on the starting fifteen.
His biggest selection call was to restore fit-again Rory Kavanagh to the team and leave out his own clubman Leo McLoone, who had not put a foot wrong against Derry and scored the all important goal that sent Donegal on their way in that game.
“It was a very difficult call,” admitted McGuinness.
“The last day against Derry we felt with three up and Michael on the ‘40’, it would give us a good platform to get at them.
“From very early today we realised that opportunity was not going to be afforded us. Declan Walsh played in Cavan and played well and did not play against Derry.
“We said all along it is horses for courses and you just try to get the right mix on any given day to take you over the line. We got over the line today, but whether or not we got everything right, that is another matter.”
Moving on to the topic of the Ulster final and facing Down and the opportunity to win two in-a-row, something that no Donegal team, has ever achieved, he said:
“It is an opportunity for this group to go back-to-back in Ulster for the first time ever for Donegal. It is a big carrot on the stick for us. The fact that we won means that they get the opportunity.”
And for McGuinness and Donegal it is now a matter of focusing on the Mourne men and getting the preparation right and coming up with the game plan to outfox and out manoeuvre James McCartan and his men.
“The key thing for us now is to take this and bring it to the training for the next three weeks and hopefully prepare for on the training field for Down.
“It is all about coming up with a plan and working on it between now and the final and then executing it on the day. And if we can do that we’ll be very happy. That doesn’t guarantee that we will win, but it does guarantee that we will be competitive.”
And the Donegal boss was at pains to point out that the Ulster championship is something that he holds dearly.
“I made my intentions very clear from day one that the Ulster championship is something I hold very dear and I had great belief in it. The players are the same. We all respect the championship very much and it is the only show in town when you are in it.
“The bottom line now is that we’re in the final and the players have the best three weeks of their lives in training ahead of them. It’s a big opportunity for everybody and one we plan to make the most of.”