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29th Jan 2024

Jim McGuinness’ second coming gets off to perfect start as Donegal showcase their attacking intent

Niall McIntyre

Jim McGuinness’ second coming got off to a brilliant start on Sunday, as Donegal defeated Cork by 11 points in Ballybofey.

Donegal flew out of the blocks in this Allianz National Football League Division Two clash, reeling off the first four points of the game through Jamie Brennan, Paddy McBrearty and the brilliant Odhran Doherty.

But even before that, Donegal’s intent was evident.

Having won a free straight from the throw-in, Ryan McHugh showcased the team’s intentions loud and clear, demanding the ball, before kicking it straight into the full forward line.

Paddy McBrearty dropped it but the message was there for all to see, and it was a huge contrast to last year.

Jason McGee won a free in a carbon-copy of a situation against Armagh in last year’s League and turned around to kick it backwards.

Speaking recently on the DL Debate, a Highland Radio podcast with former Donegal footballer Brendan Devenney, McGuinness mentioned his desire to get the team playing on the front foot, having been frustrated watching them play passively in recent years.

This example from the throw-in may only be a tiny speck of a 70 minute game but it wasn’t out of kilter with the ambitious mindest Donegal seemed to possess throughout.

“Without going too deep into it,” said Jim.

“One of my things with Donegal is that when the ball was won, it went lateral (In recent years).

“We want to be aggressive, get up the field and ask questions of teams.”

That was what they did in this round one pipe-opener, hunting in packs, swarming and pressurising every Cork player took possession of the ball.

Indeed, Donegal maintained this high, manic style of pressing even in the second half when they were playing into the teeth of the gale. Having served them well here, it will certainly have the 5,092 supporters who showed up for the game excited about things to come.

“As I said to the boys in the team meeting before the game, there’ll be a big crowd in Ballybofey and all they want to know is that there’s an honesty and purity to what we’re doing, and that we’re going to work hard for each other,” he said afterwards.

Renowned as a master tactician, McGuinness also showed on Sunday his inclination towards one of the oldest tactics in the book. Having ground out a 0-12 to 1-3 lead in the wind and rain of a dogged first half, Donegal kept Cork waiting at half-time.

There was no sign of Donegal as Cork stood out on the pitch waiting for the second half to begin, with the wind howling and the rain falling. Donegal duly took over after half-time, with Cork failing to score again until the 49th minute of the game.

Having been relegated from Division One last year, the Naomh Conaill maestro’s first task will be to guide his county back to the top flight and they’ve certainly made a good start.

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Donegal GAA