The 2012 All-Ireland winning Donegal manager disagrees entirely with the views of his fellow Ulster men that the game is “muck” (Brolly) and “dead” (Burns), insisting it is evolving.
Via satellite from Sky Sports’ Glasgow studio to their London headquarters yesterday, McGuinness was confirmed as the broadcaster’s new addition to their GAA football championship coverage.
He will be a part of their first broadcast, the June 6 Leinster quarter-final between Kildare and the winners of Laois and Carlow.
The Celtic first-team performance coach will undertake his Uefa “B” coaching badges in the next fortnight as he hopes to further his development in the game. Club boss Ronny Deila has also indicated he will facilitate his step up.
However, he has kept a keen watching brief on the county scene since he stepped down from Donegal last October and likes what he sees as more teams strive to upset the status quo.
“For me, I think football is in a very strong place. I think there’s a lot of work going on in every single county.
“I think what’s happened in the last number of years is counties that maybe traditionally weren’t at the top table are fighting very hard to get to the top table. That’s a good thing.
“I don’t see it as the death of football. I think there’s definitely been changes and people have been asking questions and the established norms have been questioned. That’s a really healthy thing. A lot of debate is a healthy thing. There’s been a lot of very strong opinions but just because somebody’s got a strong opinion or they’re a high profile pundit, that doesn’t mean they’re right.”
McGuinness has enjoyed the break from Donegal though he referred to his time at the helm as “the best years of my life, in terms of experience and developing and growing as a person”.
He hasn’t ruled out a return to GAA management, nor pursuing a similar position with a soccer club, but, for the time being, he will enjoy being a spectator for the Donegal v Tyrone game in Ballybofey on Sunday week.
Two years ago when he was at the helm of the defending Ulster champions, it was a cauldron. Now as they hope to retain the title again under his former assistant Rory Gallagher, he is expecting a similar game and a similar result:A Donegal win.
“Donegal, I think, are a very mature team and have been through a lot together as a group. Maybe there is a few issues at the moment with injuries. Paddy McGrath has been struggling a bit with hamstrings.
“Martin McElhinney has missed a couple of weeks’ training but I think the squad is very strong and I think the experience of losing the All-Ireland last year could be a very powerful one going into this season.
“In terms of Tyrone, it’s going to be interesting to see what they bring. I think they do have to bring something different. I know Joe McMahon is back in the squad and that’s going to be important for them.
“Conor Clarke, Justin McMahon are big players in terms of physicality and strength but looking at Tyrone they seem to have gone back to basics.
“I think they are playing a very strong running game with off the shoulder support and that served them very well in the past.
“The U21s played a similar brand of football on Saturday night so it will be interesting to see if they go back to 2008 and 2005 and a really hard running game. I’ve a funny feeling that they will and I am not sure that is going to work against Donegal, to be honest, because in order for that game to click into gear, you need space to operate into and run into and I am not sure they are going to get that in Ballybofey.”
McGuinness spoke before last year’s All-Ireland final of the inequality in the All-Ireland SFC but he acknowledges perceptions, even his own, are different prior to the Ulster SFC.
“If Donegal are to become Ulster champions this year they have to beat Tyrone, they have to beat Armagh in the first round proper and then it is Derry or Down and possibly Monaghan in a final.
“That is a very difficult championship to win and you can say that is very unbalanced. Or you can look at it and say it is an unbelievable championship to win and the Ulster championship is on a higher pedestal than all the other provincial titles and when you do win it, it is revered and more valued and for me we put a huge emphasis on the Ulster championship and trying to get over the line and for us it’s like a mini All-Ireland.”
Spoken like a current manager even if he is no longer one.