SHANE RICE: McGuinness coming out aggressive

IN a display that left spectators awestruck, Jim McGuinness showcased his aggressive coaching style as Donegal went head to head with Cork last weekend.

The match, described by many as “men against boys,” unfolded as a tactical masterclass, with Donegal proving both physically and technically superior to their opponents.

One of the key takeaways from the encounter was Donegal’s emphasis on winning their own kick-outs. While the focus wasn’t necessarily on securing possession high up the field, it became evident that getting their hands on the ball was a top priority.

Out of the 11 kick-outs, Donegal managed to win eight successfully inside their own 45-metre line. The three kick-outs they lost were strategically placed long, minimising the risk of immediate retaliation.

On the flip side, Cork only scored 0-4 from their own kick-out, but Donegal managed to get 0-5 from Cork’s kick-out. A lot of Cork’s long kick-outs were wrapped up by Donegal or even if Cork did win it, Donegal were already in defensive mode to cut out the danger.

From Donegal’s kick-outs, Donegal capitalised, netting an impressive 1-4. This success highlighted that winning kick-outs closer to their own goal didn’t hinder their ability to convert opportunities into scores.

In the eyes of many, the emphasis on the kick-out lies not in its field position but in the ability to secure possession consistently – a philosophy that seems to be working well for Donegal.

For McGuinness, coaching the kick-out involves prioritising a high percentage of successful plays, irrespective of the field position. It’s about providing the team with the opportunity to methodically work the ball through hands or feet to create scoring chances.

A significant shift in Donegal’s playing style under McGuinness is their newfound ability to press high up the field. Traditionally known for flooding the defence with numbers, McGuinness has opted for a high-press strategy.

This tactic involves aggressively turning over the ball in the opposition’s defensive third. Donegal’s fitness levels, a testament to their prolonged training regimen, have been a crucial factor in executing this high-intensity strategy effectively.

The true litmus test awaits Donegal in their upcoming clash against Derry. While the victory against Cork showcased their prowess, sustaining this level of intensity throughout the season, especially against formidable teams like Kerry, Mayo, or Dublin, remains a burning question.

Can Donegal maintain their high press against teams that are equipped to handle such intensity, or will they need to adapt their strategy against more experienced opposition?

The encounter with Cork may have been a one-way traffic affair, with Cork seemingly off the pace, but it also signalled Donegal’s potential to dominate the competition. The challenge now lies in whether they can carry this momentum into the summer, where the stakes are higher, and the competition is fiercer.

Only time will tell if Jim McGuinness’s aggressive approach will be a game-changer for Donegal in the long run.

Shane Rice, Parnells men’s and Foxrock Cabinteely LGFA head coach/S&C

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