Allow Colm Parkinson, if you will, a told-you-so.
“For the 10 years before he took over Donegal, I was saying that Jimmy McGuinness would be an outstanding manager.”
You can believe him. The former Laois forward got to know McGuinness as a fellow student at Tralee IT where they won a Sigerson Cup together in 1999. Except to Parkinson, the then 26-year-old Glenties man was more than just that.
As he explains: “I met Jim in 1998 when we were on the Compromise Rules panel together and the day after the second Test we shared a train down to Tralee.
“He was already there and I was just starting. Val Andrews had convinced me to go there but he left after a month.
“Vinny O’Shea took over but Vinny didn’t have that much experience. Jimmy was captain and in all fairness he was the player-manager.
“He took all the training sessions and Vinny was more of a selector. As far as I’m concerned, you can add that Sigerson title to Jimmy’s managerial CV.”
Parkinson, like his fellow Laois man Noel Garvan and Kerry’s Noel Kennelly, responded to McGuinness not just because they saw he knew what he was doing but he had a way about him.
“Training sessions were enjoyable but they were intense. But it was all about his personality, it was always positivity from him.
“When Martin McHugh says his son Mark would go through a wall for him I can understand that because we wanted to do things for him. He was a brilliant man-manager and that counts for a lot. Technically, he is excellent. He has nailed his colours to the mast with the defensive game and getting a full panel to play like that can’t be easy.
“It mustn’t be enjoyable for the forwards. They’re boxed out of it a lot as you saw with [Colm] McFadden against the five Dublin defenders last year. But it’s work so well for Donegal.”
As someone who seemed to enjoy college life as much as him, Parkinson doesn’t deny McGuinness also liked letting his hair down back then. But he stresses McGuinness found it easy to compartmentalise things. There was a time for football and there was a time for a drink.
“Anyone who hung around with me would have had to like the beer otherwise I wouldn’t have hung around with them.
“But people can build up these reputations about people and they’re not always as they seem.
“We did enjoy ourselves but we trained hard. I remember Jimmy banging at my door at 7 in the morning to do weights at 7.30.
“Yeah, lads like to hear stories about being on the beer and in most cases they don’t get it for no reason. There was a bit of partying but without Jimmy we wouldn’t have won that Sigerson.”
Nowadays, he passes on what he learned or, to be more precise, what he lost.
“He’s very much into his sports psychology and that’s what he studied. He’d build lads up and have the Donegal lads brimming with confidence but he would believe himself that they’re great players.
“He would have seen that it was only discipline issues holding them back.”
As Parkinson sees it, McGuinness is in a way living out some of his wasted playing years vicariously through his group now.
“Over his last few years, maybe he didn’t put into football what he should have. I think he’s playing his last years now through this team of his.
“He doesn’t want them to fall into the same trap he did. It’s an awful lot easier hearing what to do and what not to do from someone who has been through it all than a drill sergeant type who wouldn’t know what he’s talking about.
“He was the jack the lads for a few years and now he’s the total opposite and passing on the advice to them.”
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