HomeFootballJim McGuinness gives Donegal strength in drive for All-Ireland glory, says Peadar...

Jim McGuinness gives Donegal strength in drive for All-Ireland glory, says Peadar Mogan

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You see 2023 had been a year to forget for both Donegal and Mogan. Off the field, Donegal were imploding. The county found itself at odds with one of its greatest players, Karl Lacey, as their academy structure collapsed while a Croke Park report revealed 14 ‘high-risk’ findings in the running of the county’s affairs.

On the field, things weren’t much better. This was the beginning of life after Michael Murphy. Paddy Carr stepped down just a few months into the gig. Relegation from Division 1 was followed by a home preliminary quarter-final defeat to Tyrone to cap a ruinous season.

It was a difficult year for Mogan too who was based in Liverpool for University for part of the year before picking up an injury that ruled him out of much of the action. McGuinness’s appointment felt like a much-needed new start for everyone.

“There was huge excitement within the county and personally too there was huge excitement because he’s been there. He’s managed Donegal before and you know what was done so it was great, knowing that you’re going to get to work with someone like that, someone that has the expertise so I’d say the main thing was excitement really.

“It really gave us a great lift and a great boost and it was just really then we were mad to get started.”

To date, Donegal have hardly missed a step. Division 1 status was reclaimed with little fuss, and as a cherry on top they beat Armagh in the Division 2 league final while down a number of regulars.

They plotted a course through Derry, Tyrone and the Orchard County to reclaim the Anglo Celt Cup. And while they lost away to Cork in the All-Ireland series, they still managed to top the group.

Mogan isn’t the first person to struggle to describe what it is that makes McGuinness so effective, but he does agree that Donegal have built up a reservoir of belief that had abandoned them.

“I think you develop belief through games, just through winning games. So firstly for us, we started at ground zero, to make ourselves competitive.

“We were in Division 2, we got a run in the McKenna Cup and then we started getting a few games in the league and you just build belief and confidence through that … it’s all done over time rather than just one go at it. It’s been developing over time but that only comes with games.”

Donegal face Louth on Sunday for a place in the All-Ireland semi-final. Mogan, who was named as the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month in football for May, and the Tír Chonaill men go in as clear favourites.

The St Naul’s clubman argues that nothing is straightforward at this stage of the competition.

“In terms of the pressure and expectation, I would not say we feel that because we have no right to feel it. We have not been in the semi-finals since 2014 so we really can’t think past this.

“This is our game on Sunday, this is our chance to get to a place we have not been since 2014 so it is huge for us because at the end of the day, we have not been making semi-finals or finals.

“Again, we are trying to make that next step for us. Whatever the favourites’ tag is coming into Louth, it is going to be fairly even.

“They are on a real high and they are riding the crest of a wave with some brilliant players. Their players are playing out of their skin and they have a nice balance, they have got height around the middle and they have loads and loads of legs and they are going to be absolutely gunning for this.

“They should probably have beaten us in Ballyshannon [in the league], let’s call a spade a spade.

“We got out of Balllyshannon really lucky that day so I wouldn’t say it is a thing we are taking for granted because they are a team that could potentially hurt you, they have scored an awful amount of goals in the championship compared to other teams so they do pose a real dangerous threat.

“We are just looking literally to get to the next stage which would be huge for us.”

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