The pair locked horns in the 2010 U21 All-Ireland final, where but for the breadth of a crossbar, McGuinness may now be a two-time All-Ireland winning manager. It was all that denied Michael Murphy as he crashed his injury-time penalty against the bar.
It was also on that day in Breffni Park that the Gaelic world had its first real opportunity to see the formula McGuinness had put together. Broadcast live on TG4, viewers watched as Murphy was stationed in a lone role up front as his team-mates grafted like beavers to get the ball into his hands.
“It was somewhat different, there’s no doubt about that,” recalls McEniff. “In Donegal, we had always played off the cuff and I was probably responsible for most of that. My idea was the best form of defence was attack.
“We were fairly expressive as a county but Jim wanted more, and first and foremost to be tight at the back. Once you’re not conceding that’s a big help. That’s what shone out from that year.
“Credit to Dublin but we didn’t perform as well in the final as we had been coming up to it. Michael is quite a good penalty taker with his accuracy and power but he hit the bit of timber and that was that.”
The managers have reaped similar amounts from that U21 class of 2010. Of the Dublin team set to be named tomorrow night, there will be four who started that day in Cavan — Rory O’Carroll, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy and Nickey Devereux. Dean Rock will surely make an appearance from the bench. Ciaran Reddin and Darragh Nelson are part of the extended panel.
McGuinness will call on captain Murphy, Paddy McGrath, Declan Walsh and Leo McLoone. Dermot Molloy will be among the substitutes. Mark McHugh has only returned from a summer off in the US.
Even without the older McHugh and the emigrated pair of Ryan Bradley and Ross Wherity, McEniff has enough faith in McGuinness to believe he has hatched a scheme to negate the high-flying Dubs.
“He’ll have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. He’ll have covered all aspects of what will take place. He’ll have gone over it all at last week’s training camp. He’ll have his match-ups done and the boys will buy into it all.
“We have played four games this year and all against Ulster opposition. When you’ve played Ulster teams in the Championship, you know you’ve been in a ball game. Antrim only gave us a first-half but they were tough and competitive matches. There would have been a lot of sore men after them.
“When you put that up against what the Dubs have played, all Division 2 teams who they coasted past at home, it stacks higher. I think Donegal will shade them. Jim has his plan worked out. He’s thought this out long and hard. They’ve a good bench but we don’t have a bad one either. We’ve also 13 of an All-Ireland-winning team out there.”
Just as McEniff refuses to accept a Dublin victory most predict, he doesn’t share the widespread opinion this season marks McGuinness’ last as Donegal manager.
“He’ll take it on its merits. He has to assess his own situation, his personal life, factor it together. He has five children under eight and he’s a very good family man and there’s only so much you can give. I wouldn’t see him taking it for one more year. If he continues on, he’ll take another two or three. I’ve no doubt he’ll make a good judgment call. He’s not a lunatic like myself who puts football before family and business!”