It seems crazy to think that Jim McGuinness has been out of the Donegal fold for the past four years, and yet he is the last manager to enjoy a championship victory over Jim Gavin’s Dublin.
That seismic 2014 All-Ireland semi-final shock reverberated around the capital and it has shaped Gavin’s ability to avoid complacency and keep the Dublin juggernaut moving safely towards Sam Maguire.
Many have tried, but all have failed in their pursuit of the Dubs and as Donegal renew acquaintances on Saturday in Croke Park for the new-look ‘Super 8s’, McGuinness scoffs at any notion that the four-in-a-row chasing Dubs are on the slide.
Despite already claiming League and Leinster titles this year, some have suggested they may be vulnerable – pointing to Diarmuid Connolly spending the summer in the US and the loss of cruciate knee ligament victim Bernard Brogan – but the 2012 All-Ireland-winning manager feels that type of “spin” is only emanating from the capital.
“I don’t see that. I just think that the young boys are really talented players. The reality is they are just pushing these really talented guys that have won a number of All-Irelands.
“They are just pushing them for game time and they are the future of the county. It’s just an incredibly healthy situation for everybody,” McGuinness said.
“You have got huge experience to draw on and you have incredible legs out on the pitch for intensity that are rightly there on merit. Whoever is saying to you that Dublin are on the slide, they are probably from Dublin and they are involved in spin.”
Saturday’s blockbuster tie is expected to see the return of Dublin’s inspirational goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton after a rib injury ruled him out of his first Championship tie since 2004 in their comfortable Leinster final victory against Laois.
While Evan Comerford dealt capably in his absence, McGuinness feels Cluxton’s presence creates conundrums for the opposition and if he were to miss a game at the business end of the summer, it would provide a chink of light for other counties.
“He’s the best player that has ever played the game in that position, there’s no doubt about that.
“I always make the point that when you’re going to play Dublin in the Championship, the first problem you’ve to solve is Stephen Cluxton,” McGuinness said.
“That is the very first problem and that is a very unique situation in team sport, where the goalkeeper is the guy you’ve got to have the biggest plan for.
“I thought young Comerford did a really good job in the Leinster final and if you’re analysing it, he was doing all of the same things that Cluxton was doing, but the reality is that we won’t really know until the pressure comes on.”
Saturday is “the acid test” for Declan Bonner’s side, but McGuinness has seen enough to be optimistic.
“They do have legs themselves, they have a lot of pace, they have a lot of skill going forward. If they go out and express themselves, and can live with the reality of not having Patrick McBrearty, I think they’ll be okay,” he said.
Jim McGuinness will join the Sky Sports analysis team this weekend for Roscommon v Tyrone and Kildare v Monaghan live on streaming service NOW TV and Sky Sports Arena.