|Jim McGuinness and Neil Lennon in Glasgow.|
Glad to report that colleague Gordon Manning made it home safe and sound from New York and his first visit to the Big Apple courtesy of the GPA all-stars and their sponsors Opel.
The young Kells man did gaze at the high-rise buildings in Manhattan – and in amazement – and enjoyed every minute of his stay at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel.
He tells me he did the tourist thing. He did the shopping thing. He even sampled the American Starbucks and the American McDonald’s and he got aboard the Circle Line to have a proper look at the island.
Gordy, as we sometimes call him at the Irish Sun, also did his job while he was in New York and, as always, he did it very well.
He went out to Gaelic Park, he watched an exhibition football match and he wrote about it. And he mixed with the best footballers in Ireland on the trip and those who mentor them.
One of the managers at work in the Bronx a few weeks ago was the All-Ireland winning boss Jimmy McGuinness of Donegal fame.
Jimmy, as the song goes, was winning matches all through 2012, which is why the year will close three weeks from now with the Sam Maguire trophy safely gripped in Donegal hands.
His team was the best team in Ireland from one end of the year to the other, and the plaudits haven’t stopped for Jimmy since he stepped off the Croke Park turf with the win over Mayo safely in the bag last September.
Since then Jimmy has been to New York and back with the all-stars. And he has been added to the payroll at Glasgow Celtic Football Club in his new job as a sports psychologist.
A week or so ago now, the current Celtic players enjoyed one of the great nights of the Neil Lennon era with the victory over Spartak Moscow that guaranteed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League, the real money round of the competition that used to be known simply as the European Cup.
A 2-1 win over Aiden McGeady’s new team at Parkhead, courtesy of a late winner from a penalty successfully dispatched to the net by Kris Commons, ensured all hell broke loose in the green end of Glasgow.
Jimmy McGuinness was there as the Bhoys won through to a last 16 clash against the likes of Manchester United or Juventus when the draw is made on December 20.
And his old journalistic mate Manning, as mentioned earlier in this column, was quick to lay credit where he felt credit was due.
“Great to see the Jimmy McGuinness touch already rubbing off on Celtic,” texted Gordon not a minute after the final whistle had blown at Parkhead and the party had begun.
Gordon was having a laugh of course. He knows his soccer almost as well as he knows his Gaelic football, and he knows Jimmy McGuinness didn’t turn Celtic into European giants after only a week or so in his new part-time job.
But Gordon was right to suggest that Celtic will benefit from the Donegal influence and vice versa. Even Jimmy acknowledged as much when he reflected on the Celtic win over Spartak and its significance.
“The pressure was on tonight, they came through the match and I suppose in relation to our (Donegal) own journey there are a couple of similarities,” McGuinness told various media outlets after the game.
“A lot of people had Celtic written off at the start of the season, said that they wouldn’t be in the group stages let alone the last 16.
“It’s been a great journey for them. I see how hard they work in training. They are a very honest group of lads and have delivered for the club.
“Who knows what the draw will bring and that’s part of the excitement.”
There is going to be plenty of European excitement for Celtic fans in Glasgow for some time to come after the Spartak win and McGuinness will be there to witness it, just as he is still enjoying the winning feeling that has engulfed Donegal since September.
We will never know what influence if any he will have -- or had -- on Celtic’s Champions League ambitions this season but the McGuinness connection has already been good for all concerned.
Like Donegal under McGuinness, Celtic are winning matches. And that’s great news for everyone, Gordy and Jimmy included.
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)Sideline ViewsGAA:
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