Donegal blood brothers don't do 'disrespect'
WHEN Jim McGuinness first became Donegal manager, he made it a policy that if any player "disrespected" another, the group would be compelled to do 100 press-ups.
"That only happened five or six times in that year," says McGuinness, harking back to 2011, "and it was wiped out."
The underlying message: as Donegal prepare for Sunday's All-Ireland final with Kerry, the Musketeer ethos is alive and well in MacCumhaill Park.
"It's the tone," he says, when asked to explain what qualifies as disrespect on the training ground. "You can be snappy with someone to push them ... 'Come on!' (clapping hands) ... that's fine. You can talk down to someone, or go over the top - that's disrespect. There is a boundary. If that line is broken, we all come in and everyone does the press-ups."
Warming to his theme, he expands: "How can you disrespect a team-mate and expect that team-mate to fight tooth and nail for you in a championship match? That doesn't happen. That simple strategy has created an environment where we never have a situation where I'm driving home thinking 'That f***ing (so-and-so)' ... stuff like that festers, it rolls over in the sub-conscious and it will come out eventually.
"We have a very happy camp. There are so many 'blaggards', but no one is carrying anything. What comes out is devilment. When you have that and people are working very hard, then it is very pure. When you get beat, you get beaten together ... but when you win it is absolutely awesome because it's real."
He then adds: "I have pushed them so hard and I don't mind saying that. I have pushed them so hard to get to the level. The harder you push them, the more they want to be pushed."
Success over the four years has made the bond that McGuinness espouses even stronger. "I don't think there is a better feeling in the world than just sitting looking across the dressing room at a team-mate, and you're shattered and he is sitting there shattered and you have done something out on the pitch.
"That bond stays. Maybe 20 years later, you might have somebody from Letterkenny meeting someone from Gweedore, spotting them across the street ... and it's there."
It's five years since McGuinness was appointed Donegal U21 manager - "that's a huge chunk of time out of your life," he says. "You're living with these fellas and coaching these fellas. Some of them have got married, some of them have had kids, gone to college and are out of college again. These are all life experiences. When I started out, I had only one child and now I have five. It's a journey we're on."
They've come a long way from those first 100 press-ups.