McGuinness had studied the diaries of Robert Falcon Scott, the British explorer who had led expeditions to the North and South Poles in the early 20th century and who lost his life at the South Pole.
“He [Scott] said he had to hire character and teach them the skills,” McGuinness said last year.
As new Donegal manager, McGuinness first met his panel one autumn day at the Rosapenna hotel in November 2010. He inherited a side low on confidence but with ability and character. He told his players he could see the Donegal supporters walking up the hill in Clones in the month of July. Two and a bit years later and there will be plenty of the green and gold headed for St Tiernach’s Park on Sunday week as Donegal chase a third provincial title in succession. Did McGuinness really believe this was possible?
“They have probably surpassed my expectation in terms of how good a group they are,” McGuinness said. “They have done that to the highest levels over the last three years. If we get a result on Sunday week, it will probably be the culmination of all that. We averaged 12 points a game in the 2011 Championship, but last year we won an All-Ireland with an average of 17.5 in the Championship. The massive emphasis last year was on upping the ante offensively. At the moment we’re working on other things that we’re trying to bring into it.”
Talk of Ulster and All-Ireland titles was banned since New Year. Only now can players envisage an Ulster three in a row. “We haven’t talked about it all year, but it’s the reality now. If we win this game that’s what’ll happen,” McGuinness said. “If we can take the cup to Donegal town, whether a one-point win or whatever, that’s all we want.”