By Shaun Casey
REPUBLIC of Ireland skipper and Donegal native Seamus Coleman has backed Jim McGuinness as the right man to lead the county forward.
McGuinness has been appointed Donegal manager for a second time and will serve a three-year term with the option of a fourth.
The Naomh Conaill clubman guided Donegal to an All-Ireland title in 2012, three Ulster titles in four years and another All-Ireland final appearance in 2014.
McGuinness has spent the intervening decade dipping his toes into the coaching world of professional soccer, which is an interesting subplot to his return notes Coleman.
“I think everyone in Donegal is looking forward to seeing it, obviously with what he’s done for Donegal before,” said the Everton defender, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since May.
“He took over a group (in 2011) that was really struggling at the time and he completely changed the mindset of the group, the whole team morale and fitness and it was great for us for a few years in Donegal.
“It will be interesting for me now to see has he picked up anything or learned anything from doing his PRO licence and things like that.
“Does he try and change anything or is it two different games completely? It’ll be interesting to see his approach when he takes over but we’re all looking forward to it.”
McGuinness’ return has certainly sparked some positivity back into the Tir Chonaill county after a dull 2023 campaign, which started so brightly with an opening day league win over All-Ireland champions Kerry.
Things went downhill from there, however. Boss Paddy Carr resigned before the end of the league campaign, in which they were relegated to Division Two, and Aidan O’Rourke along with Paddy Bradley took charge on an interim basis.
Donegal picked up an eye-catching win during the group stages of the All-Ireland series, having fallen at the first hurdle to Down in the Ulster Championship, but their year ultimately ended in Ballybofey against rivals Tyrone.
O’Rourke stepped down after that defeat and the Donegal County Board moved swiftly to appoint his replacement. Coleman believes it’s too soon to tell if McGuinness’ return will turn Donegal into genuine All-Ireland contenders next year.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like a Gaelic expert because for me, I genuinely believe it’s too early to say,” added Coleman, who has made over 60 appearances for his country.
“They’ve had a tough couple of years, and I think we’re expecting miracles off him to come in and make them All-Ireland contenders straight away.
“But he did that very quickly the first time round. I’ve met him a few times and he’s got something about him, he’s got something different about him in my opinion.
“I wouldn’t write them off either for challenging straight away because he definitely gets into the mindset of the players and I think whatever he’s got, whatever he does, he motivates the players beyond where they think they can get to themselves.”