McGuinness: I never contemplated losing final

The biggest cheer at Croke Park yesterday was reserved for victorious manager Jim McGuinness, who was hailed by Michael Murphy as the man who brought Sam Maguire back to Donegal after a 20-year absence.

McGuinness: I never contemplated losing final

The biggest cheer at Croke Park yesterday was reserved for victorious manager Jim McGuinness, who was hailed by Michael Murphy as the man who brought Sam Maguire back to Donegal after a 20-year absence.

When McGuinness took over as Donegal manager, they were at a low ebb - a 2-14 to 0-11 All-Ireland first round qualifier defeat to Armagh was gnawing at a group of frustrated players.

Their progress since the summer of 2010 has been hugely impressive but it is no quick fix, with McGuinness admitting recently the job of an inter-county manager is 40-plus hours a week.

Speaking after the trophy presentation, captain Murphy pointed to their boss' 'work ethic' as a key component in driving Donegal to the promised land of an All-Ireland success.

Yesterday's 2-11 to 0-13 victory over Mayo represented the county's twelfth win in 13 Championship outings under the Glenties native, who has also guided them to two Ulster titles.

Joining Donegal legend Brian McEniff as an All-Ireland winning manager, McGuinness said: "It's just a fantastic feeling. The scenes out there will live in my mind for the rest of my life...to be part of it and be out on the pitch enjoying that.

"We started out on May 20 and it's been a long, long road for these boys. And our performance level hasn't really dipped all year, which is testimony to them and their mental strength as well.

"It would be easy to say we're going to be good today and then take the foot off the pedal the next day but they haven't done that, they’ve stayed very focused.

"They've stayed tuned in to what's import all the way through the season and they've seen it out now and it's just a fantastic feeling."

McGuinness was never going to be swayed in his belief that this Donegal team would go on to secure the county's first All-Ireland SFC title since the heady days of 1992.

"I never once thought we were going to get beaten. I couldn't go there. It's just so far removed from this," explained the Naomh Conaill clubman.

"I just didn't want to go there. I kept believing what we were going to do and I kept working towards that and focusing on that.

"I never once thought about how it would feel to get beaten or the consequences of getting beaten or how the dressing room would be.

"I was just completely focused on what we have been doing and how we could improve it and driving that and create a situation where it would all work out."

The 39-year-old added: "I've said to them over the last few weeks that I can see the cup in the front of our bus. Every morning I woke up I could see the cup in the front of the bus and that has become a reality now.

"The moment the door closes on the bus and I know we're heading home with the cup on it, that is going to be the best journey those boys will ever be on in their life.

"And the lift that it is going to give all those kids and all those old people in the county. I was in Letterkenny last week in the hospital and there were people who were very, very ill and they were standing up on their feet as we were leaving to wish us well.

"That is humbling, the impact it can have and that is before we won it. So it is a very, very privileged position we are all in, to be part of it, and I am really looking forward to going home with the cup."

But McGuinness' first press conference as an All-Ireland winning manager did not pass off without incident.

He refused to talk to the assembled journalists in the room until Belfast Telegraph reporter Declan Bogue was asked to leave by a GAA official.

Bogue wrote the book, 'This Is Our Year', in which an interview with Donegal's Kevin Cassidy led to him being dropped from the panel by McGuinness last November.

McGuinness was angered by what was written in the book and the media coverage that followed it, despite it being mostly positive about him and his coaching.

Discussing his grievances yesterday after Bogue had left the press conference, he did not expand on the 'untruths' that are at the source of his annoyance.

"There was a book written. There were a lot of untruths in the book. There was a lot of things said about me. I’ve never broken court on it since the whole thing happened," he said.

"I've held my dignity. I've let myself be castigated. And I did that because I gave somebody an agreement that I wouldn't break my court on it.

"There were a lot of things said in the book that were incorrect and untrue, some of it possibly lies about me personally and about some of my players.

"It was all-out attack for a couple of months on my character. I know what I've done, I know what I've coached, I know what I am as a person. And that's the situation.

"So I'm not going to let somebody sit in a room and fill their pages tomorrow on the back of what we've done today when they, in their wisdom, degraded me as a person and some of my players."

He continued: "Once things are printed in the media, it's out there. Doesn't matter if he turns around and 24 hours or three weeks or three months later and apologises.

"The people who read it have made their mind up. The people who read that document have a concept in their head about me and personal issues with me and certain situations with my players that cannot be changed. That's why I held my court.

"That's the bottom line on it. I'm not going to be saying one thing and doing another. He's left the room. I'll answer any other questions."

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