Peadar Mogan on the "lift" Jim McGuinness has given Donegal and the challenges posed by Louth

Donegal's Peadar Mogan, the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in football, pictured with his award at his club Naomh Naille GAA in Mountcharles, Donegal
-Credit: (Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Not for the first time, Jim McGuinness has turned Donegal football on its head and it’s the sense of identity that he has with the county that struck Peadar Mogan most.

Mogan was an impressionable teenager the last time that McGuinness led the county and even has a photograph at home of the two of them with the Sam Maguire Cup in Mountcharles from 2012.

“Jim was brilliant in those times at getting photos,” says Mogan. “It’s funny how the tables have turned now. That’s life.”

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So, imagine how he felt when it emerged that McGuinness was to return as manager after a disastrous 2023 for Donegal football.

“There was huge excitement, first of all. 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. It just gave everything and everyone a huge boost after last year, getting beat early last year and just the way things went. It was brilliant timing, like.”

Since he had previously managed Donegal, McGuinness had been around the world, settling in Scotland, China and the US at different stages, trying to make a breakthrough in soccer coaching and management.

“No matter where he’s travelled in the world, he’s always never forgot about Donegal so that definitely was probably one of the first things about how much he actually cared and how much he actually cared about the supporters, to try and give them something to cheer about because I think that’s huge and it was one of the main things, definitely.

“That initial contact with him, I’d say that was the main thing that rubbed off with him.”

Like his first coming after the 2010 season, McGuinness inherited a team that was at a low ebb after last year’s difficulties, with relegation to Division Two, a swift exit from Ulster and eventual elimination at home to Tyrone in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final, not to mention numerous off the field issues engulfing the county board.

“Oh it was tough,” Mogan admits. “Now, I probably didn’t get the full force of it compared to some people because I was away in Liverpool last year as well so I wasn’t in terms of talking to a whole pile of people or around that environment.

“I was obviously coming home for a while for training and games and then I ended up getting injured so I wasn’t getting the full brunt of it but it wasn’t nice, even some of the stuff you were reading and me being away, I was feeling very sorry for the players with some of the stuff that was being said about them.”

As Mogan alluded to, he had been commuting to play for the county but an injury picked up in the League against Mayo ended his season. He used the down time to fuel himself for 2024 and it served him well as his form has been excellent, culminating in his being named PwC Player of the Month for May.

“I was away from home and I kind of used that as a way to refresh and get ready for next year. I probably used that time wisely and well to come back and probably come back that wee bit stronger and maybe come back earlier.

“I didn’t play for four months so when I came back into the club championship I was mad for road where some people were coming off the back of an inter-county championship season where I didn’t have that so I was just mad for road. Probably those couple of months away did help.”

Donegal are strong favourites to reach a first All-Ireland semi-final in 10 years when playing Louth in Sunday’s quarter-final, though Mogan points to their modest record outside of Ulster when playing down their status going into the game, with a qualifier win against Cork their only Croke Park victory since beating Dublin 2014.

Louth also gave Donegal plenty of it in the League this year, he noted.

“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, let’s call a spade a spade.

“We got out of Ballyshannon 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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