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‘The phone was hopping’ – Shay Given on trying to keep track of Donegal’s Ulster win while working at Old Trafford


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A big match in its own context, but across the Irish Sea Given’s mind had turned to the Ulster SFC final, which was won in dramatic circumstances by his native Donegal. With Ulster conquered, Given is confident Jim McGuinness’s side can cope with the challenges to come.

“It’s shoot for the stars isn’t it?” says Given, speaking to promote Just Eat’s association with next week’s Europa League final in Dublin. “I’m sure that’s the message Jimmy is giving the players, ‘that we’ve got the Ulster now, let’s go on and try and shake it up with the big boys at the top’.

“Of course Dublin have been strong, Kerry, there’s some big teams up there, but it’s just the belief that the Donegal lads will have again, ‘Yeah, we’ve bought into his methods and we’ve bought into his style of play so why not?’.

“I was working on Sunday for Match of the Day, actually at Old Trafford, I had one eye on the phone and the phone was hopping about the scores because it was a mad game, going to extra-time and then penalties. Obviously [Shaun] Patton, the ’keeper, was the hero in the end.

“I think the turnaround is remarkable because the last couple of years people up in Donegal have questioned everything, and the players. It’s just amazing. We talk about the Ireland manager situation but one guy, once you can lead a group of people and a group of men and a group of players to believe again, to get results, and obviously the county is buzzing again.”

McGuinness, who invited Given to watch training in his previous spell as manager, when Given’s late friend Pat Shovelin was goalkeeping coach, took time out from the post-game madness on Sunday to reply to his text.

“The message was ‘thanks Shay, tough battle, delighted to get out alive’. He has that personality, presence in Donegal and up and down the country, for the people of Donegal, I’m not saying the good times are back as we’d like to win an All-Ireland but we’re back on the right road and he seems like the perfect fit.”

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