Great Celtic start for Donegal’s Jim McGuinness

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 Views
GAA: The Crossmaglen Rangers player Aaron Kernan left his iPhone down the other day while he was still logged onto his Twitter account. Within half an hour the world had discovered he was “swapping” Cross for their local rivals Killeavy on the instructions of his wife! The wind up tweet read, “Thinking of gettin a transfer to Killeavy #underthethumb #mywifewearsthetrousers #onelifetwoclubs.” Aaron did spot the joke and correct it with the following tweet, “Sorry folks. Sat my phone down in the wrong company. I will not be leaving Crossmaglen EVER!!!. #OneLifeOneClub.” Bet he doesn’t leave his phone unattended again.

GAA: Love the story from Mullingar on Sunday where the Ballymun Kickham players finally got to lift the Leinster club football trophy for the first time – then dropped it. As captain Davy Byrne delivered a rousing speech, one of his teammates dropped the cup and broke the handle as it was passed around. The Ballymun players have promised to repair the cup before they hand it back to the Leinster Council a year from now. Manager Paul Curran said, “I don’t know what happened but we’ll fix it up and give it back when the times comes.”

HURLING: How does the President Barack Obama end up in the same conversation as the Leinster club hurling final? When the manager of Kilcormac-Killoughey is also the Offaly County Council chairman. Danny Owens is the man in question, and a year ago he got to meet the president in his ancestral home in Moneygall. Owens also inspired Kilcormac-Killoughey to a shock win over Oulart-the-Ballagh in the Leinster decider on Sunday, but he has yet to declare publicly which was the greater thrill -- meeting Obama or winning the provincial crown.

SOCCER: A City fan threw a coin at the United defender Rio Ferdinand on Sunday as the visitors celebrated Robin Van Persie’s late winner in the Manchester derby. The scenes that followed were ugly but at least Rio saw the funny side of it afterwards, telling his many Twitter fans that he was disgusted the coin was only worth two pence and not a pound. Not that he needs the money.

SOCCER: Times are hard in Ireland right now, so hard the FAI are offering two free tickets to forthcoming games against Poland and Austria as well as the new green national team shirt, and all for just a hundred bucks or so. That’s some value. Not so long ago thousands of people would gladly have paid over $100 just to see one Ireland game in the flesh.

GAA: Soccer’s transfer window doesn’t open again until January, but the Kildare Gaelic football team boss Kieran McGeeney may just have made the signing of the year. McGeeney has persuaded the former Wexford manager Jason Ryan to join his coaching team. Considering how close Ryan got to a Leinster title with Wexford, his influence with the Kildare thoroughbreds may be immense.

SOCCER: Good luck to Kevin Kilbane now that he has officially retired as a professional footballer and taken up a new role in life as an analyst with various media outlets. Killer was one of the most committed players to ever wear the green shirt and a nice guy to boot. He deserves to enjoy his retirement.


HERO OF THE WEEK
FIONNUALA Britton made history in Budapest on Sunday when she became the first woman ever to retain her European cross country title. In doing so she also helped Ireland to the team gold and brought real success back to our national athletics. Track golds may never be ours again, but cross country will always have a special place in Irish hearts thanks to double world champion John Treacy. Fionnuala Britton has followed brilliantly in his footsteps.

IDIOTS OF THE WEEK
STEVE Collins and Roy Jones Junior want to get into a boxing ring and finally fight each other. Are they mad? One is 48 and the other one is 43 or so. What on earth can they offer sport by fighting at their age? And what sort of a sport would allow them to? This “bout” cannot be permitted under any circumstances.


 

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