It was delivered with a smile and drew plenty of laughs but Jim McGuinness’ comment when asked about what aspects of Kerry’s game he had been looking to nullify was revealing.
“I couldn’t be telling you that now,” he said.
“But sure you can now, you’ve beaten them,” persisted his inquisitor.
“There’s always next year,” came the quick-fire response.
The irony for Kerry supporters is that McGuinness received much of his football schooling in a two-year stint at IT Tralee, during which he won two Sigerson Cups, the second as captain. He also developed an appreciation of how woven into the fabric of life the game is in the Kingdom.
What’s more, he got an insight into how they think in the south-west and you can bet your last euro that this was part of the planning that went into this encounter.
And it was all working perfectly, a six-point lead chiselled out in impressive fashion. Then Kieran Donaghy got his paw to the ball, palming it to the net. With a minute remaining, the margin was a point. What now?
“We knew that Kerry were going to come back at us very strong at some stage. They’ve won what they’ve won for a reason. Their composure and class came through at the very end.
“Up to then we were very happy that we were in control of the game and at that stage I thought it wasn’t going to come from Kerry and then the goal changed everything. You could feel the apprehension when the ball hopped into the net in the crowd.
“A very important breaking ball in the middle of the park when we had lost two or three in a row and Karl Lacey comes onto it, kicks a very good score and pushes it out to two and we were okay after that.
“It was a clutch situation. Kerry were asking serious questions of us at that stage. To come up with that breaking ball in the middle of the park and commit to the attack...
“You’re looking for them things. I said before we’d know a lot more about our own team after the game. We know when the real pressure comes on them they don’t fold. That’s important.”
It was a huge win for Donegal but not one that came as a surprise. This was coming and you sensed it in the reaction of the players afterwards.
All McGuinness is interested in is development. Preparation.
“From our own point of view we’re just happy to progress. We were in a semi-final last year and we were desperate to try and get back there again. We’ve achieved that now and it gives the lads an opportunity to go and play in a big, big game in Croke Park again.
“The whole thing is progress really. In the next three weeks, if it seeps into their brain what they’ve done, the quality of the opposition they’ve beaten, hopefully that will make them grow a wee bit psychologically because they have come a very hard road.”
Cork are next but the humiliating 14-point defeat inflicted on them in the quarter-final three years ago by Conor Counihan’s men will have no bearing on that encounter. And he will have a plan.
“We know what we want to do, what we’re trying to achieve. We’ll look at Cork now and I’m sure they’ll look at us. We’ll try and put our preparations together for that, get ourselves right and then it’s a matter of trying to execute a game plan.
“1-27 two or three years ago shouldn’t be in our psyche. It’s really about now. If you’re thinking about the drumming you got three years ago you’re in the wrong area.
“That’s the same thing we’ve done since I’ve come in. It’ll be the same approach, the same mentality. Trying to get our plans down early, share them with the players and then work towards it on the training field.”
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