AS DONEGAL WAKES this morning, shakes off the collective cobwebs and realises that an All-Ireland final is no longer a dream but a hard-won reality, Jim McGuinness and his green and gold soldiers get back to work.
There’s no denying the passion for football that exists around the hills of Tír Chonaill and Inishowen. After 20 long and lonely years wandering in the championship wilderness, the anticipation of a second All-Ireland crown has brought the county to a tipping point of excitement.
Despite the buzz, McGuinness is confident that his players will be able to keep their minds on the task at hand as they prepare to meet either All-Ireland champions Dublin or Mayo in Headquarters on 23 September.
“The hype has been fairly high anyway since the Ulster final in the county,” the Donegal manager told TheScore.ie after yesterday’s 0-16 to 1-11 win against Cork. ”Particularly coming up to this game there was a lot of hype. A lot of people saying there was the potential to the final for the first time in 20 years.
“In fairness I would have no nervousness at all as to how the boys will react to it. Their approach is always exactly the same. We can’t control the supporters, nor do we want to. If the supporters want to go crazy let them go crazy. We know exactly what we want and what we want to achieve in our performance and that’s what is important to us.
Regardless of what is going on in the background and how much the things runs away with itself in the next four weeks, for us we’ll have a very clearly defined goal and goals for this day four weeks. It will be up to the boys then to try and go out and execute that.
Every single thing we have asked them to do that, they have done it. I don’t have any apprehension inside me that they won’t do it the next day. It makes it very clear and concise for them and for us. We try to deliver the information to them, coach the information and they try to use it. So far they have been very very good in this regard. We’ll look forward to the next four weeks from that point of view.
The luck of the draw has given Donegal a four-week run-in as opposed to three for their opponents, and McGuinness is anxious to take full advantage.
“We’ll let the hype around the county die down and wait for the other semi-final to be played. I would prefer it than the other way you know but the other plus is these fellas have four of the best weeks of their lives ahead of them. Instead of three, they have four.
“Our training will have to go to a new level again. We’ll have to try and improve in every aspect of our play again, make sure no stone is left unturned in our preparations. After that you have to just trust them to go out and do the job.
“It’s the way we have approached all the games in the last two years and you have to give them that bit of empowerment then to go and win the game.”
For captain Michael Murphy, who pointed three frees yesterday, there is no danger of taking the foot off the pedal now.
“For me personally, having played Ulster championship for three years previous to that and having failed to win an Ulster championship game coming into [last] year, Jim instilled a lot of belief in them, a lot of confidence and enabled us to go out and express ourselves in a way that we would like as Donegal footballers.
This year was about building on that and I think we did so quite successfully so far. It is all about trying to ger over the line the next day. There is no point coming this far if we don’t put in a performance the next day and if that performance is good enough to get us the result, we will be happy.
Whatever team is put out in front of you, it is just great to be competing against teams like that. It is a nice place to be and coming over the last couple years to compete with those teams is a nice place to be. There is no point competing with them if we don’t finish off the job and that job must be finished off in the next four weeks.