Fifteen minutes inside the head of Jim McGuinness.

The time passes by in a flash. In his days as Donegal manager, you would need a good hour or more of space on the dictaphone before sitting down with him for a chat and you got the sense as he moved on to the next interview yesterday he had only just been warming up.

It was time enough to flit through a good chunk of topics: from Donegal’s encouraging spring and their injection of pace and youth to Dublin’s well-being after their league final loss, Mayo’s lack of marquee forwards and the difficulty in giving root to a culture of success in counties like Cavan and Roscommon.

All that is the sort of stuff he will speak about on Sky Sports this summer.

His day job and the man himself fascinate more.

McGuinness is still working with and coaching younger players at Celtic and he starts on his A Licence in July. 

Only the Pro-Licence will need his attention after that and, though he doesn’t know where all this will end up, it’s pointing at another shot along a touchline.

If in a different sport.

“I just want to keep on going, keep on progressing and see if I’ve got the capacity,” he explained.

“But I’d like to maybe at some stage take control of a team myself, whether that’s the young lads within the academy or whatever. I’d like to get out the other side in terms of my own philosophy.” 

It’s one he is busy developing on the basis of his own beliefs and best practice elsewhere. Visits to Manchester City and Bayer Leverkusen have come and gone and he has looked carefully at how teams as diverse as Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Athletic Bilbao do their business. 

The picture of McGuinness that emerged from his book Until Victory Always was one of a man obsessed by winning and how to go about it so it comes as little surprise to learn it is German football that holds a particular interest.

McGuinness admires the combination of intensity, physicality, directness, and energy with which Bundesliga sides play. 

Not just that but the fact they tend to marry it with some superb football and he sees ways in which elements of Gaelic can be superimposed onto all that. He offers kick-outs by way of example.

In Gaelic football, he explained, most goals come from kick-outs. Teams can either push up and go long or play it short and dominate possession. In soccer he sees sides approaching them with a defensive mindset, positioning players closer to their own goals if the ball goes deep.

“So there is room there for Gaelic strategies and asking different questions and being a little more open-minded and progressive in terms of taking teams on in kick-outs, as opposed to protecting. There are elements and all these things would be flying around in your head.”

The thought strikes as he speaks that soccer may suit him better.

McGuinness’s hunger for knowledge and willingness to source it from all corners is a given and the culture in his new sector, with its coaching conferences, constant movement of people and ideas, and abundance of research, offers him an endless library of ideas.

The GAA is a far more cloistered world in that regard. The possibility Jim Gavin or Michael Ryan would allow eager minds from other counties into their training sessions, let alone their innermost thoughts, is so far from everyday reality as to be laughable but the Donegal man has a theory about that.

“It’s very closed but at the end of the day you are playing the same teams year in and year out.

“There is no transfer market and so you kind of know what the Donegal group is going to be and you could look at that group and say, for example, ‘that’s a very good U21 team, that’s going to be that team.’

“That’s why counties get excited, thinking ‘we are going to have that squad there for the next five or six years, we could possibly win All-Irelands or do things with it’. 

"So you’ve got to protect that. You don’t want to be going into Derry, showing your hand and then them coming in July and taking you down.”

His next steps will be fascinating.

Sky Sports Championship schedule

JUNE 

3rd: Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin v Carlow/ Wexford, 7pm.

4th: Munster SHC semi-final: Clare v Limerick, 4pm.

10th: Leinster SHC semi-final: Kilkenny v Wexford/Group team, 7pm.

17th: Leinster SFC semi-final: Kildare/ Laois/Longford v Meath/Louth Wicklow, 7pm.

JULY 

1st: All-Ireland Football or Hurling qualifier, 7pm.

8th: All-Ireland Football or Hurling qualifier, 7pm.

15th: All-Ireland Football qualifiers (Rd 3B) 5pm and 7pm.

22nd: All-Ireland Football qualifiers (Rd 4A) 5pm and 7pm.

29th: All-Ireland Football qualifiers (Rd 4B) 5pm and 7pm.

AUGUST 

5th: All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, 4pm and 6pm.

6th: All-Ireland SHC semi-final, 3.30pm.

13th: All-Ireland SHC semi-final, 3.30pm.

20th: All-Ireland SFC semi-final, 3.30pm.

27th: All-Ireland SFC semi-final, 3.30pm.

SEPTEMBER

3rd: All-Ireland SHC final.

17th: All-Ireland SFC final


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