Jim McGuinness at Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork, ahead of a Munster tie between Cork and Kerry in May 2022. He returns to Donegal management, now as a UEFA Pro license holder. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Donegal's McGuinness returns

Jim McGuinness has made a sensational return to inter-county management after being confirmed as the new Donegal senior football manager last week. McGuinness’s second coming was confirmed at a hastily convened County Board meeting. Colm McFadden, Neil McGee and Luke Barrett were named in his backroom team. 

It marks an intriguing return to the post for McGuinness, who presided over Donegal’s rise during an unforgettable and revolutionary four-year stint in charge in the early 2010s, a period which yielded three Ulster titles and the county’s second All-Ireland win in 2012. The Glenties man, a long-time county player and a substitute for Donegal in their first All-Ireland title win in 1992, oversaw their remarkable transformation from also-rans to All-Ireland champions in just two seasons. After guiding Donegal to a first Ulster title in 19 years in his first season in charge in 2011, McGuinness was subsequently castigated for the team’s tactics in their narrow defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, with the term “blanket defense” entering the Gaelic football lexicon. 

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In 2012, they beat  Kerry in the quarter-final and Cork in in the semi-final to set up a final date with Mayo. Early goals from Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden were pivotal as Donegal recorded a 2-11 to 0-13 victory to win a famous All-Ireland title, exactly two decades after their first. 

McGuinness had been coaching Derry City’s under-19 soccer team last year and it looked like the 50-year-old was intent on pursing a soccer coaching career, before the Donegal call came. Welcoming the appointment former Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice said: “McGuinness returning is game changing for both Donegal and the game of football. It will be fascinating to see what he brings this time round. As the first UEFA Pro license holder to manage a GAA inter-county team and considering his track record of innovation, rest assured he will bring plenty.’’