'I never once thought we were going to get beaten'
REACTION FROM THE DONEGAL CAMP:From the moment Michael Murphy fisted Donegal into 2-10 to 0-10 lead, the photographers began to gather at the feet of Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher down in front of the Donegal bench. Even on a day when Donegal were coughing up more scoreable frees than they had all year, six points up with eight minutes to go felt to most people in the ground like a done deal.
Not to McGuinness though, not when Mayo were able to come forward and tack on two quick points. The snappers got a flea in their ear for their troubles.
“You could see the photographers coming in around you,” said McGuinness, “and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘The game’s still in the melting pot here’. I think Rory made a couple of yelps out of him to get them pushed back but there was still a lot of action going on, on the field. They were attacking very well, there was a lot of high, early ball going in and Aidan O’Shea ended up at the edge of the square for the final 10 minutes.
“So it was really the final whistle when that relief kicks in. The thing becomes a reality, it’s just a fantastic feeling. The scenes out there will live in my mind for the rest of my life. To be a part of it and be out on the pitch enjoying that. We started out on the 20th of May and it’s been a long, long road for these boys.
“And our performance level hasn’t really dipped all year, which is testimony to them and their mental strength as well. It would be easy to say we’re going to be good today and then take the foot off the pedal the next day but they haven’t done that, they’ve stayed very focused.
“They’ve stayed tuned in to what’s important all the way through the season and they’ve seen it out now and it’s just a fantastic feeling.”
This is what has consumed him, the stuff his adult life has been made of.
Brian McEniff spoke during the week of the fervour with which McGuinness harassed him when he went for the Donegal job the first time, the night he plopped his laptop on the McEniff kitchen table and showed him the world as he thought it could be. You don’t have to listen to him speak for very long before you see why young men follow him. When everything is positive, everything is possible.