herald

Thursday 21 August 2014

Celtic post can be a positive

JIM McGUINNESS is a performance coach. Sports psychology is his sphere of expertise and part of his 'magic' is how he accentuates the positive, making players believe that anything - even a distant All-Ireland dream - is achievable.

So when hardened media sceptics wonder how his new role with Celtic FC will negatively impact on his ongoing management of the Donegal footballers, we really shouldn't be surprised that he sees it from an entirely different perspective.

For McGuinness, mixing Glasgow with the Glenties is all positive. He believes spending several days a week on another sport in another country will not dilute his commitment to the All-Ireland champions ... but will, in fact, free up more time to chart the next phase of Donegal's stratospheric evolution.

And here's the really frightening part for all pretenders now playing catch-up with Jim's lean, mean Tír Chonaill machine: he reckons they've only reached 65pc of their potential!

Speaking from the GAA/GPA All Stars tour in New York - where McGuinness will manage the 2012 team against their '11 counterparts at Gaelic Park tomorrow evening - he was emphatic that his new role working with Celtic's up-and-coming stars will not "change anything" when it comes to the logistics of managing Donegal.

"My interaction with the players is normally Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If there are no league matches in Donegal, then it is Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, if we feel that we need a Saturday session.

"I will be at every one of those sessions as normal. Nothing is going to change," he insisted. "You would need to ask other managers: does their job impact with the job they do with the county team?

"I don't see it being an issue an all. I am very lucky that it is only a few days a week as well. I am getting a situation that when I am home in Donegal, that time will be focused exclusively on Donegal from 9am to 5pm. There is not a manager in the country who has that situation.

"It's about how you use the time that is available to you. I will be living in Glasgow a few nights a week as well. That means I'm away from my own home and my own children, which actually frees up time. Once I get in the door in the evening and have my dinner, I will be able to sit back and do whatever work I want to do."

Warming to his theme, McGuinness actually maintains that his Celtic involvement (which looks set to start on Monday week) can be a win-win for Donegal rather than a case of Paradise lost.

"It is a great, great opportunity for myself and a great opportunity for Donegal because everything that is there is available to me," he pointed out.

"That includes the sports science, the strength and conditioning, how they are operating. I am looking forward to that. I looking forward to seeing what bits would be useful to ourselves and bringing that back.

"On a personal development level, it's fantastic for myself. It's going to make me a better coach. Hopefully, as a result it will make our group better because we will be finding wee edges which I wouldn't have been exposed to previously. I don't see any negatives whatsoever. It's a great opportunity. Time is not an issue. I will have loads of time off."

Likewise, McGuinness doesn't accept any local apprehension that his new role may disrupt his focus on Donegal.

"Naw I don't," he replied. "Rory Gallagher is running a shop and he has got 40 staff. Is that disrupting Rory's focus? He is an unbelievably busy man. Conor Counihan has a big job too. Does that take away from his focus? You're not working with your county team all of the time. You have a job half the time, and you have your county team half the time. I am lucky.

"There is no crossover in my job. It is all sport. When I am thinking about a Celtic player in terms of development, that is linked to developing my own players. That is why I got the job."

Tellingly, he added: "It is not work anyway, to be honest with you. It is what I love doing."

As for Donegal apprehension that Celtic might ultimately want his full-time involvement, McGuinness demurred: "Nobody can predict what is going to happen. Even if I didn't get the Celtic job, would I still be in the Donegal job in two years' time, or four years' time, or six years' time? Nobody knows the future."

For the moment, he will be facing a hectic travel schedule juggling both roles, but his various flights in and out of Glasgow will be "geared around our Donegal calendar and when we train. I have looked at that in very fine detail already."

At no point, during his negotiations with Celtic, did McGuinness feel he would have to quit Donegal.

"It'd be wild hard to walk away when you feel that (a) you've created something special and (b) that we're 60-65 per cent of what we can be as a group," he reflected.

"Even the All-Ireland final was a huge learning experience for them. They deviated away from what we were talking about beforehand - was that the pressure of the All-Ireland final? Was it the crowd? Was it the atmosphere?

"I don't know, but I know that we were lucky enough to win the game and still get that experience, and hopefully that will stand to you if you get into a similar situation again.

"That's what sport is all about."

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