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Ulster SFC Final: McGuinness and McGeeney continue 30-year rivalry
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Ulster SFC Final: McGuinness and McGeeney continue 30-year rivalry

Image caption, Jim McGuinness and Kieran McGeeney have been competing on the field and on the sidelines for more than 30 years

  • Author, John Haughey
  • Role, BBC SportNI

Ulster Football Final – Armagh v Donegal

Location: St Tiernach’s Park, Klonen Date: Sunday May 12 Inserting: 4:00 PM BST

Coverage: Watch on BBC Two NI and BBC iPlayer; live text commentary with in-game clips, coverage and highlights on the BBC Sport website

Jim McGuinness and Kieran McGeeney have crossed paths on the pitch and on the sidelines for more than three decades, but while the occasional word was uttered in the heat of battle, the Donegal boss says his respect for the Mullaghbawn native has never wavered.

The duo’s latest side event will take place at Sunday’s Ulster Football Final in Clones, where McGuinness 2.0 aims to deny McGeeney’s Armagh the silverware they crave.

Perhaps the most memorable blow-up between the duo came in the opening year of McGuinness’ first Tir Chonaill reign in 2011, when there was some pre-match media chatter from then Kildare boss McGeeney ahead of their All-American quarter-final Ireland on tactical errors. by Donegal attackers drew the ire of the Glenties man.

“Kieran McGeeney was a phenomenal player. He didn’t cry, he didn’t whine. We weren’t very impressed as a group when we read that. We’re glad the referee didn’t take the bait.” said a clearly irate McGuinness after a sensational point from Kevin Cassidy (remember him) had given Donegal a dramatic extra-time win over the Lilywhites.

“The place to do business is on the coaching field. If you do business there, try to beat the opposition there…not in the media.”

Nearly 13 years later, at the Allianz Football League Division Two match at the Athletic Grounds in February, it was clear that their respective competitive juices had in no way dried up as they kept a linesman busy with observations of a full match that ultimately ended in a draw.

But taking into account McGuinness’ comments about McGeeney in the round, such incidents only indicate the respect there is for a fellow warrior who is the longest serving inter-county manager appointed in Armagh in 2015.

Armagh physique ‘maybe down to manager’

At a media evening organized for the Donegal press last Friday evening after skipping Ulster GAA’s media afternoon with McGeeney earlier this week, McGuinness was perhaps the one who stirred the pot when he spoke about the Armagh boss having a physical squad composes his own image.

Referring back to how Donegal were often overloaded and overworked by bigger, stronger and fitter Tyrone and Armagh teams during their own playing days, McGuinness said:

“It’s unusual now to have such a huge physical profile within a team, but I would suggest that this Armagh team is probably one of the biggest and most physical teams in the country.

“Maybe that’s because of the manager. The manager was one of the most physical players.”

You can immediately imagine a smile appearing on McGeeney’s face upon hearing these words, followed by a few quick observations.

But after landing his few punches, McGuinness quickly entered admiration mode as he spoke about the “tremendous amount” the Armagh manager has achieved in his sport.

“A lot of that comes from your own personal drive. It doesn’t disappear and go out the door.

“He brings that to the table with those guys every night and has obviously also created very prominent backroom teams. Everyone with a specific job that adds value.”

This last point was another interesting observation from McGuinness when he referred to a management team consisting of Kieran Donaghy, Ciaran McKeever and later Conleith Gilligan.

Image caption, Jim McGuinness says Donegal’s All-Ireland qualifier win over Armagh in Crossmaglen played a big role in his decision to apply for the county job for a third time

In many ways, Armagh football has been central to McGuinness’ football journey.

He says Joe Kernan and his Armagh management team produced the template for conditioning and tactics in the early 2000s, which was soon followed by Tyrone before McGuinness appeared to take it to a whole new level during his first Donegal administration.

“They (Armagh) were more powerful than us and they had clearly established that from a process point of view.

“From a footballing point of view we would always have had great confidence in ourselves. But tactically they were ahead.

“When you add all those bubbles together, there’s a real strength of mentality involved. You know you’re in good shape. You know there’s a plan and you know when you fit into it and that brings its own plan .” mental strength.”

Intriguingly, McGuinness also says that Donegal’s 2010 All-Ireland qualifier win over Armagh in Crossmaglen was crucial to him taking up the job of county manager a few months later, despite having been turned down for the job twice before.

“That match was an important point in my own decision-making.

“I saw that match and was hungry to participate and see something in it and believe in it. It’s come full circle and both teams are coming to meet again.”

As for Sunday’s match, McGuinness does not dispute suggestions that Armagh are under more pressure than Donegal as they aim to end a 16-year wait for an Ulster title after all their near misses in the big stage over the past few years. seasons.

“We’ve played a lot of finals over the last 10 to 15 years but it’s been a while since we’ve won one,” said the Donegal manager.

“We want to do that and Armagh have been building that squad for a number of years and they probably feel they are ready to go and win. Even though we come from slightly different places it’s exactly the same in both cases .” struggling.”

And the Donegal boss certainly doesn’t agree with Armagh selector Ciaran McKeever’s tongue-in-cheek comment ahead of last year’s Ulster Championship that the “real football only starts” during the Super 16s.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to win an Ulster Championship. I was lucky enough to do it in my first year (as a player) and never win again, so I understand the seriousness of this game and what it means to everyone , what it means for myself, the management, the players, the people of Donegal.

“I am aware that the (Super 16s) draw has taken place and I have seen the groups and I have not looked again.

“It’s not interesting to be honest with you, whether it’s Derry or Tyrone or whoever in a group stage after this, it doesn’t matter.

“You’re going to be in an All-Ireland competition. You’re going to come up against good teams.”

Last Friday night, McGuinness said his team had not practiced penalty kicks, but given his attention to detail, it’s hard to imagine that hasn’t been addressed this week.