Former Donegal boss Jim McGuinness has urged Dublin to “do the right thing” and to insist on playing just one of their upcoming Super 8 games at Croke Park.
The 2012 All-Ireland-winning manager advised Dublin to consider their “legacy” and standing within Gaelic football and make that brave call.
Former Celtic FC coach McGuinness, who is pushing hard for his first management job in soccer, said if Dublin play two of their Super 8 games at Croke Park, it could look like “a fix” and a “set-up”.
All counties are guaranteed one home game and one away game in the new series, as well as a third game at Croke Park.
However, with Croke Park doubling as Dublin’s home for the championship, they appear primed to play two of their three games there.
Dublin’s first Group 2 game in the Super 8s is, ironically, against McGuinness’s native county on July 14 or July 15 at GAA headquarters.
“I think it’s an opportunity for Dublin and for Croke Park to do the right thing and go the same as all the other teams,” said McGuinness.
“They’re the best team in the country, they’re chasing amazing goals season after season. Just play the game at home, play the game away from home and then say, ‘listen, we don’t care where we play the [third] game. Play the game at a neutral venue’, and just do that and everybody will be happy.
“It helps their own legacy, it helps Jim Gavin’s legacy, it helps the team’s legacy and it stops people from being negative.
Three-in-a-row All-Ireland winners Dublin haven’t lost a game in the championship since McGuinness’s Donegal beat them in the 2014 semi-finals.
He continued: “That was the last game they lost, so the chances of them losing two games in the Super 8s at home in a month, when they haven’t lost two games in four years, it’s not realistic.
“The reality is, people from the outside looking in will go, ‘that’s a fix, that’s set up and Dublin’s going to progress again’, and there’s no question about that and I think that’s a fair enough comment, as well, that if they have those two home games, they’re probably going to win them, based on the last four seasons.”
McGuinness was speaking hours after it was confirmed that key Donegal attacker Patrick McBrearty’s season is over due to ACL damage. The 2012 All-Ireland winner suffered the knee ligament injury in Sunday’s Ulster final win over Fermanagh.
“It’s not the story people wanted to be waking up to in Donegal on the back of what has been an incredible season so far, this fusion of young talent, there’s an energy, a skill, a quality going forward in the team, so it’s devastating for him,” said McGuinness.
“He’s just a really quiet young fella that loves Gaelic football, and now he’s going to be sidelined from his own sport. That’s going to be very tough on him. He’s 24, he’ll be 25 in August, he’s in his peak. There’s no doubt he was one of the best forwards in the country this season.
Losing McBrearty leaves Donegal with a mountain to climb facing Dublin in that opening Super 8 game, though current manager Declan Bonner said it’s toughest on the player himself.
“Paddy is a total professional and it’s a cruel blow, no doubt about it,” said Bonner. “He’s still very young and has been playing brilliant football all year. He’ll get the proper treatment and rehab and we’ll look forward to seeing him back in 2019.”
McGuinness quit as assistant coach at Chinese club Beijing Sinobo Guoan for “personal, family reasons” in January, having previously spent over four years with Celtic.
“I’d like to manage again now, because I’ve been formulating this idea and this philosophy and this concept for so long now,” said McGuinness, who is exploring opportunities in the UK, the US and “further afield”.
“I feel at this stage of the game, I’ve served a lot of my time. I’ve worked really hard putting in the hours in terms of formulating my own ideas, how that would translate to a game and how you would train that. That’s all sitting there, ready to go and I feel that now I would like to get moving on that.”
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