Betrayal. It’s the one word that leaps out from the pages of Jim McGuinness’ book Until Victory Always — A Memoir.
Broken into four sections representing each year he was in charge of Donegal, it would be wrong to give the impression that the 2012 All-Ireland-winning manager’s account is full of insult and anger. His passion for Glenties and Donegal comes across abundantly clear. He recounts with pleasure how the Donegal players backed themselves at long odds to beat Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
His searingly honest recollections of his brothers Charles and Mark’s tragic deaths in 1984 and 1998 and how each left an indelible mark on him give a fascinating insight into one of the game’s most brilliant brains.
However, the most compelling passages are those about the figures who he perceived did him wrong. Relatively little is devoted to the spat with Kevin Cassidy who McGuinness axed from the squad in 2011 after he contributed to a book written by journalist Declan Bogue, who McGuinness incidentally does not refer to by name. McGuinness maintains there were “inaccuracies” in the book although he doesn’t specify only to state trust had been broken (Cassidy claims he never signed the famed confidentiality agreement).
There is also mention of his differences with former assistant manager Rory Gallagher, who McGuinness reveals he hasn’t spoken to since telling his eventual successor that he would not be part of his management team in 2014. McGuinness still doesn’t seem to have forgiven Gallagher for doing an interview prior to the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final when he made the staggering claim Mayo and Monaghan were colluding against Donegal.
The majority of McGuinness’s ire is reserved for the county board who he felt sabotaged Donegal’s 2013 season when they chose to go ahead with club championship fixtures during the summer. Because of injuries picked up in club matches, McGuinness felt he had one hand tied behind his back: “To my mind, there were people on the county board who wanted me to fail, and if that meant that the Donegal team failed in the process, so be it.”
Jack O’Connor’s paranoia screamed from Keys to the Kingdom and McGuinness’s suspicion is evident by his admissions that Donegal changed their summer game-plan when their league games were being televised. When Michael Murphy’s injury prior to the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare was leaked, he believed it had come from inside the camp and encouraged players to sacrifice their phones.
One of those games came against Kerry in Killarney in March 2011 when Kerry won by 14 points. Regardless of tactics, McGuinness was deflated by the performance. Leaving the field, he noticed Paul Galvin in front of him: “He (Galvin) starts shouting as if to himself. - “C’mon Ker-ry - C’mon Ker-ry” As if to say: You are in Kerry now, boy. And you know what you’ll do? Go into that dressing room. Pack your bags. Get your players. Get on that bus. And f*** off.”
Expletives are plentiful throughout the book although, for a man who spent a lot of his 20s in college and university, not much is given to his time in IT Tralee, University of Jordanstown and Liverpool’s John Moores University.
Nevertheless, McGuinness, assisted by the more than capable hands of Keith Duggan, provides a large window into the man and how he changed Donegal’s football fortunes for the better.
Until Victory Always — A Memoir by Jim McGuinness (with Keith Duggan) is priced at €24.99 and is on sale from Friday, October 30.
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