Jim McGuinness has revealed that he always planned to step down as Donegal manager after the 2014 Championship, regardless of whether they won it or not.
The Glenties man guided Donegal to three Ulster title wins, two All-Ireland final appearances and one Sam Maguire Cup success during his four-year reign.
He took the job in late 2010 and while losing September’s final to Kerry made it more difficult to walk away, he insisted he was always committed to leaving at this point.
“In my own mind, I wanted to give it four years, give it everything and have no regrets,” McGuinness said on The Saturday Night Show on RTÉ. “Before the final, I had my mind made up anyway, win, lose or draw. I suppose it made it a wee bit more difficult when we lost.
“But it still wasn’t the right reason not to (resign). I just felt the time was right. It was a fantastic journey, an unbelievable experience, one of the best of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“I’d put so much into it that I knew in my own mind that was the way it was going to pan out.”
McGuinness said he had no regrets about informing the players by text message that he was stepping down.
“The reason for that was very simple; Donegal’s a massive county,” he said. “To bring everyone into a hotel in Letterkenny to say, ‘I’m leaving’ and then let them go back home again, it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.”
But he conceded it was a difficult message to write.
“It was, an emotional sort of moment when you sit down to do that,” he acknowledged. “But the bottom line for me was purity and honesty and we’ve had that. We’ve had a great, great time together, you know, five years out of my life. You’re living with these people, you’re seeing them grow, you’re seeing them develop, some of them getting married, some of them having children, others starting university, others going through university and coming out the other side of it.”
McGuinness said the best moment was not immediately after the title triumphs but responding to agonising defeats, like last year’s heavy Championship loss to Mayo. “I think in that moment, you’re really alive,” he said. “You’ve got to find an answer and you’ve got to look at yourself and say, ‘am I going to throw in the towel or come back and give it a go?
At the end of 2013, after a 16 points defeat against Mayo, that was a very difficult situation for us and it looked like the break up of the group. But everyone refocused, re-energised, recommitted and we ended up back in Division 1, Ulster champions and beaten in the All-Ireland.”
McGuinness said he still hadn’t fathomed whey performed so poorly in the final against Kerry. And he played down his appearance at the recent Ryder Cup matches, revealing he forged a friendship with European captain Paul McGinley over a 7-hour chat in 2011.
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