HomeFootballDonegal’s Caolan McColgan: As a kid I idolised the All-Ireland-winning team of...

Donegal’s Caolan McColgan: As a kid I idolised the All-Ireland-winning team of 2012

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There was an assumption that McGuinness would pick up where he left off back in 2014, which was creating a very driven team that could compete for Ulster and All-Ireland titles, and there is an argument to say that he has done just that.

With the Ulster Championship already locked away in the trophy cabinet, and a quarter-final date with Louth booked for this Sunday, it looks to be the same old story for the manager and his players.

The only difference is, McGuinness didn’t have to spend the first year of his tenure convincing the players to ‘buy in’, even the younger ones, because they grew up watching the same man lead their county to glory and they have been all-in since then.

While his now team-mate McBrearty was playing in the All-Ireland final, Caolan McColgan was just a young boy in the stands, watching his heroes create history.

“I used to go to every game when I was a wee boy. I was 10 years old when we won the All-Ireland [2012] so I was only young,” McColgan said at the recent All-Ireland media launch.

“I was there in 2012, when the boys were going around the clubs, and I remember looking up at them on the stage just idolising them.

“We all looked up to Jim growing up, he’s a great manager, he has great knowledge of the game, and he has his homework done, every game.”

​After breaking onto the scene last year and having a brilliant season, despite the team’s disappointing campaign, the young defender’s 2024 has been plagued with injuries.

“I have been struggling since the start of the year. I got surgery on my hamstring in October time and that put me out for most of the league, and then after the Ulster final I nipped the other hamstring and that set me back another few weeks,” he added.

“Hopefully now though I am on the short road to recovery, and I’m aiming to get there for the quarter-final, all being well, so I’ll get the head down now and keep working hard.

“If you are performing in training then you’re going to play, Jim said that, we all know that, so we’re all working hard. There’s massive competition for places, everybody wants to be playing football, and we’re just happy now that Jim is back, and we can push on.”

One aspect of McGuinness’ first stint in charge of Donegal was his famous, or infamous, training sessions that pushed the players to the brink and, although extreme, it resulted in them enjoying incredible levels of fitness.

The split season means that there is less time to get in huge blocks of hard running, so pre-season was really the only time that the current Donegal squad could be sharpened under the iron of the manager’s training.

Despite hearing all of the horror stories, though, McColgan never feared the prospect of training under the Glenties man.

“It was just exciting [training under Jim], you need that work, and it was tough, but it’s probably why we are going well this year.

“I missed a lot of the pre-season with injury, but even watching the boys, it was great, just real hard work and it’s hard to beat hard work.

“There’s always games coming so you can’t really do too much. The McKenna Cup starts on the first week of January, then you’re into the league straight after that, and there’s no break at all going into the championship really.

“Everyone knows there are great footballers in Donegal, we knew that ourselves, last year wasn’t great, and we had a lot of injuries, but we knew that if we had the right man in front of us then we would do well, and we’re going alright now.”

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