Hunger was the main difference between the teams at a sold-out St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, according to the Donegal manager, and it was Donegal’s first defeat in the Ulster championship since 2010 when Down won in Ballybofey thanks to Brendan Coulter’s extra-time goal.
McGuinness likened Monaghan’s first provincial crown in 25 years to his own side winning a first in 19 two seasons ago. “We had an unbelievable day here in 2011 and it’s a lot like that today for Monaghan” McGuinness said.
“It was always going to be a though battle against a team that are a lot like ourselves in many ways. Monaghan lost two Ulster finals recently and have a lot of experience.
“There’s fellas there with 60, 70 and 80 appearances for their county there and they have serious hunger. They set their stall out accordingly and they won the game.
“Monaghan were the better team, the hungrier team and certainly the most clinical team.”
Donegal were four points down within seven minutes and never recovered as a tigerish Monaghan seized on every loose ball.
Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke also won the tactical battle, with Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus giving Neil and Eamon McGee their most taxing afternoon in a long time.
“Look, we’ll be honest with ourselves and we always are,” McGuinness continued.
“We will look and see where we went wrong and what we can do to fix it. We’ve to check to see how many bodies we have for next week.
“We weren’t our usual self. It’s probably a wee bit too early to say why. We trained very well in the lead-up to the game and we certainly didn’t it see us being flat coming.”
Donegal will now face into a first qualifier under McGuinness against Laois this weekend. The sides have never met in the championship.
Talisman Mark McHugh is almost certainly out. The Donegal sweeper was replaced on nine minutes, having suffered a dead leg in an accidental challenge with Stephen Gollogly and then picking up concussion after hitting his head off the ground.
“There are a few bumps and bruises in there as it was a physical game,” McGuinness said. “That’s all part of it.
“We are out of the Ulster championship and it’s the first time we’ve lost in three years in the competition. We had a great run. We won it in 2011, we won it in 2012 and we beaten in the final today. But now we have to refocus our energy for next weekend.”