SOME of these days the media hounds conducting the post-match Jim McGuinness interviews might take heed on what’s his priorities for the National Football League.
The Donegal manager continually is questioned about the pressures of the early season competition but insists the function of the league is to breed new talent before the championship gets underway.
And although yesterday’s 1-12 to 0-6 win over Kerry will go a long way to easing Donegal’s relegation worries, McGuinness feels that the importance of results is secondary at this time of year.
“That only comes from the journalists,” he said when asked would the win ease the pressure at the bottom end of the table.
“It comes up every week. We have done it now for a few years and we continue to do it – stay true to ourselves.
“We know what we want to get out of the league and we know that, even looking at that today, we are not where we need to be in terms of our conditioning.
“We came back into training very late and we’re just trying to build towards the summer and try to build the squad. We want to build players and build fitness. Today, we managed to merge all of those things.
“It’s not that we don’t want to be in the League semi-final, but we want to get out of the League what we set about getting and that’s looking at players and at different styles of play. We’ve managed to get four points on the back of that and hopefully another two will keep us up.”
The Kerry team that travelled to the north-west were, if truth be told, one of the poorest to come from the Kingdom for some time. Donegal were workmanlike and deserved their nine-point win. Michael Murphy was excellent at full-forward.
“Everybody worked hard today, without singling anyone out,” McGuinness said. “Michael done very well, as usual, picking up and showing very well for the ball. We’re happy with everybody. They’re all working hard and they’re all not in the shape that we’d like them to be in. At the same time, we have four points now with three games to go.”
Donegal lost Anthony Thompson before the throw-in to a hamstring injury and Mark McHugh’s calf strain meant he was replaced by his brother Ryan. There were a few more niggles that McGuinness didn’t want to overly risk, particularly with a tricky assignment away to Cork this Saturday.
Ryan Bradly filled into Mark McHugh’s position and Donegal’s domineering centre-field pairing of Rory Kavanagh were both replaced late on with slight hamstring strains.
“We had to do a lot of juggling there,” McGuinness said. “In the last 10 minutes we had next week’s game in mind. That’s why we pulled the two midfielders off.”
Although revenge was certainly not Donegal’s sole concern, their 2-16 to 1-8 loss against Kerry last year in Killarney was perhaps the most sobering experience of the entire year.
“Last year we were on the receiving end of a fairly heavy defeat in Killarney,” McGuinness said. “The journey the whole way down took a lot out of us, so maybe that had a bit to do with the Kerry team today. They’re very depleted at the moment and they lost players over the course of the game.
“From that point of view, it was a tough day for them, but we know what it feels like after last year. I wouldn’t say it was perfect but today we tried out a few things. We tried Ryan McHugh at half-back, we tried out Ross Wherity again and we experimented a few other things off the bench too. You want to try to fill the voids and Ryan and Ross have done very well for us.”