By Michael McMullan
FORMER Donegal midfielder John Gildea has backed his former Naomh Conaill teammate Jim McGuiness to again work his magic as the county’s senior boss.
Gildea also hopes that ace forward Oisín Gallen can carry his club form into the county scene and be a focal point of the attack.
McGuinness, an All-Ireland winner both as a player and a manager, is back in the fold and has already planned a training camp ahead of the new season.
Donegal will begin the season in Division Two of the NFL and will find out their Ulster Championship opponents in Saturday’s draw.
Gildea was speaking to Gaelic Life for a feature on Naomh Conaill’s story from a first county title in 2005 to their recent dominance of the club scene.
Injury forced McGuinness out of action midway through the season and took on the role of team coach under manager Hughie Molloy.
It was the start of a coaching journey that has taken him back to lead the senior county team and Gildea wasn’t surprised to see his return.
“I think the time is right for him,” said Gildea who played with and under McGuinness.
“Jim is never far away from Donegal football, even when he was travelling the world and doing his thing with soccer.”
After a difficult 12 months for GAA in the county with saga over the Academy and Paddy Carr stepping down as senior manager in mid-season, Gildea feels McGuinness is exactly what was needed.
Gildea uses Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí from Naomh Conaill to give an example of the blocks needed to build a new-look team,
“He’s everything you’d want in a player,” Gildea said. “He has an edge to him, he can kick points, he can win ball and he can cover ground.
“I’d imagine that Jim is looking at a lot of those players, they are perfect…the type of player for Jim McGuinness to get his hands on and hopefully work his magic over the next two or three years.”
Another is Oisín Gallen who has been shortlisted for an All-Star after making a return from injury and has shot the lights out in the club championship.
“He’s exceptional,” Gildea said. “He has got bigger and stronger. I haven’t seen a forward as good as him in Donegal for at least 15 years. He is that good and I just hope that he stays injury free.
“There is a lot to work on and Jim is not going back to be unsuccessful, it is just not in his nature. I think Jim believes he can work his magic again.
“Jim, when he speaks to the current crop of players, he has the pedigree for them to believe him.
“In sport, if you can get people to buy into and believe in what you are doing, you’re going to go a long way.
“I am expecting an exciting couple of years from a Donegal perspective. I know Jim will get a bounce from them from day one and everything will be done right.
“He is the right man, in the right place at the right time and Donegal are lucky to have him.”