McGuinness thanks Celtic bosses as focus switches to Donegal

Jim McGuinness has paid tribute to his Celtic bosses Neil Lennon and Dermot Desmond for allowing him time to focus on Donegal’s push for a three-in-a-row.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon told McGuinness to take a few weeks off in order to fine-tune preparations for the Ulster final clash with Monaghan on Sunday week.

McGuinness revealed that when he returned to Glasgow the morning after his team’s Ulster semi-final win over Down, Lennon told him to “get the trophy back to Donegal”.

“It’s fantastic, obviously. Neil has played the game himself and he appreciates what we’re trying to do and where we’ve come from and now the chance we have to win three-in-a-row,” said Donegal’s All-Ireland winning manager.

“He (Lennon) knows what playing in a big game for his county means and it’s a great support to have.

“Everyone else at the club has been very supportive, asking what they can do to facilitate this and make it work.”

McGuinness has relished working in such a professional environment as Celtic and accepts that having employers from the same background has been of benefit.

“You’ve got the owner, Mr Desmond, an Irishman and the manager is an Irishman so that helps.

“They were both reared on GAA so they would be sympathetic to how we work and that has been a big, big plus for me.

McGuinness has transformed Donegal in two and a half years from also-rans to the team everyone must catch.

He has made his squad as professional as it can be, but admits there are times when he is frustrated with the mechanics of working within an amateur organisation.

“The GAA have made huge strides, but a soccer club like Celtic is professional from the top down.

“Everybody is inputting into their area to make the finished product the best it can be.

“The only time I get – not nervous – but apprehensive or frustrated going into a game is when I don’t feel the team is prepared to the level that’s required.

“Things like fixtures are made at the start of the year and everyone knows what’s coming down the track.

“There is no deviation from that, apart from a replay or something like that.

“Things like that leave it open to be more professional – better planning and people can adapt their schedules around that.”

McGuinness will travel to Belfast next week when Celtic are over for their Champions League qualifying tie against Cliftonville at Solitude.

The club’s development squad are also travelling over for a three-day training camp, but McGuinness’ attention will be on Donegal’s historic three-in-a-row bid.

McGuinness is confident Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher will be fit to start the Ulster final after missing the Down win, while Mark McHugh and Frank McGlynn have also overcome injury concerns.

Although he has been around the country to watch a lot of matches this summer, the Donegal boss insists All-Ireland rivals Dublin, Kerry and Mayo are “not on his radar” at the moment.

“It’s fascinating going to the games and watching the other teams to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” he added.

“But they aren’t really on our radar until they are our immediate opposition.”


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