#TheToughest Issue: Was Jim McGuinness right to criticise Fermanagh's players?
Jim McGuinness has caused controversy, this week, by criticising the Fermanagh players that hugged family and friends, at Croke Park, following their eight-point defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
SportsJOE and JOE go head-to-head to debate whether the former Donegal manager was right to call the Maguire County players out.
Patrick McCarry of SportsJOE says 'Yes'
No-one has fought against the 'culture of mediocrity' as ferociously in the past decade than Jim McGuinness.
As a player, he bucked a decade-long trend and represented Glenties, his club, on the inter-county stage. As manager, he took a rag-tag Donegal side from the NFL's Division 2 to three Ulster titles, an All-Ireland final and a Sam Maguire victory.
On Sunday, he watched Fermanagh, another proud Ulster team, show Dublin they would not be trod upon. Two late goals against Dublin added gloss to their last eight exit. McGuinness, however, took no satisfaction in the result.
McGuinness says he was "spooked" by the scenes of joy, post-match, as the Fermanagh players hugged family and friends.
While some may look upon the Donegal man's words as harsh, Fermanagh would be wise to pay them due heed.
Fermanagh enjoyed a golden period in their footballing history - from 2004 to 2008 - but the next generation never filtered through. They were left in the doldrums for seven years and would, more often than not, lose in Ulster, win a qualifier and get dumped out of the championship by early July.
Pete McGrath - a man who won an All-Ireland with Down - has added some steel, and playing structures [mostly defensive] to the Maguire County. Sean Quigley used to be burdened with doing all the scoring but Tomás Corrigan and his colleagues are now chipping in.
They won promotion to Division 2 of the Allianz Leagues, earlier this year, and recorded good qualifier wins over Roscommon and Westmeath.
Last week, Ryan McCluskey spoke to us about his pride at reaching Croke Park for the first time since 2004. Croker seemed, to me anyway, be the final destination, not a step on the road.
Their achievement, of reaching quarter final, may have been 11 years in the making but the result, and overall performance, did not merit the outpouring of glee.
The peak of their ambitions should not be a fighting defeat to a Dublin side that have yet to hit their straps this championship summer. Take the applause, acknowledge the fans but get off the pitch and set a new goal - win Ulster in 2015.
Why can't Fermanagh dream bigger? Because the have never won Ulster before, let alone the Sam Maguire?
Mere excuses for failure.
Many people will point out that Fermanagh has a population of 60,000 and only 18 senior football teams. Monaghan debunk that point as they have [give or take a baker's dozen] the same population and nine more football teams.
The Farney County have won two of the last three Ulster championships.
Corrigan, the man that gave the Joe Brolly arm wave to Hill 16 after his consolation goal, on Sunday, took offence to McGuinness' comments - labelling them contradictory and lazy.
The best way for Corrigan to answer McGuinness would be to train his bollocks off, encourage his teammates to do likewise, and score another goal against Dublin when it really matters.
The only way you will learn how to play the big teams at Croke Park is by playing the big teams at Croke Park.
Fermanagh proved a lot of doubters wrong on Sunday. The last thing they want to do now is prove Jim McGuinness right.
Alan Loughnane of JOE.ie says:
No, McGuinness wasn’t right to criticise the Fermanagh players or fans for their reaction to defeat.
This is probably the first time that many of these Fermanagh lads have played in Croke Park and that’s something to remember. I’d stay out and take pictures if I didn’t play in Croker too often either.
The former Donegal manager must take into account the history of Fermanagh football and the fact that every team in the country isn't capable of pulling a Donegal.
Fermanagh are not a strong footballing county, they’ve never won an All-Ireland or even a Ulster title so it has to be expected that their expectations are lower than that of Dublin, Kerry or Donegal.
Not that they didn't go to Croke Park hoping to win, it’s just they didn't go there expecting to beat Dublin, as the majority of counties don't.
They’re a county straining to get back to the top table of football in Ireland and they’re not quite there yet.
But that’s not to say they won’t be in a year or two…
Before this year they hadn’t been in an Quarter-Final in years and the players and supporters can rightfully feel proud at they achieved this season. They had good wins over Westmeath, Roscommon and Antrim in the qualifiers.
The win against Roscommon in particular was impressive given that they were underdogs going into that game.
They’re building slowly, it could have put them back years in their development had they gone to Dublin and lost by a cricket score, so they had reason to be happy at the final whistle.
Going into next year’s championship, they should be targeting a run in the Ulster Championship with the obvious aim of making the Ulster Final, after that who knows?
As Pat says above, nobody has fought the culture of mediocrity more than Jim McGuinness and his transformation of Donegal gives him more authority than anyone to demand more from the weaker counties. But not every county in the country can pull off a remarkable turnaround like Donegal.
It’s not a slight on Fermanagh, but Donegal had four outstanding players when they changed from being perennial whipping boys for the bigger teams in 2011/2012, Murphy, McFadden, Lacey and McGlynn were instrumental in their success.
Fermanagh just don't have those players, simple as that, so their expectations for the time being are slightly lower, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Very few teams have players of that calibre at their disposal.
As long as they going next year’s championship aiming to be better than the year before, then it doesn’t make a difference how many picture they take with fans.