Donegal statement indicates McGuinness made backroom changes

A statement from the Donegal County Board has indicated that it was Jim McGuinness' decision to remove three members of his backroom team - Rory Gallagher, Maxi Curran and Francie Friel - ahead of the 2014 season.

News broke yesterday that assistant manager Gallagher, video analyst Curran and kit man Friel would not be continuing in their roles with the Donegal senior football management, with the presumption that they had decided to call it a day themselves.

It was reported that Gallagher and Curran stepped down due to work commitments, with Gallagher currently being linked to the vacant managerial position in his native Fermanagh.

However, the wording of the Donegal GAA statement - released late last night - suggests that it was McGuinness' own call to make changes to his backroom staff, just days after agreeing to stay on as manager for a fourth year.

The statement reads: "CLG Dhún na nGall were informed this (Tuesday) morning by senior football team manager Jim McGuinness of his intention to make changes in his management and support team.

“He subsequently confirmed that Rory Gallagher and Maxi Curran will not be involved in the Donegal management team for the 2014 season. Francie Friel, who was involved in the backroom team, will also not be involved in 2014.

"CLG Dhún na nGall wish to acknowledge the immense contribution made by Rory, Maxi and Francie to our success over recent years, and wish them well in the future."

Maxi Curran, Rory Gallagher and Jim McGuinness in 2011. Pic: Sportsfile.

Donegal sources have said that McGuinness watched the Donegal Club Championship quarter-finals last weekend and later on Sunday held a meeting with members of his backroom team. Goalkeeping coach Pat Shovelin will remain on for the 2014 campaign.

Speaking to local journalists following Sunday's Donegal SFC quarter-final between Kilcar and Glenswilly, McGuinness said: "We are happy with where we're at. We will look at everything in the next number of weeks.

"We've had a very good analysis since the Mayo game in terms of medical and in terms of team and of what happened in relation to the amount of sessions we did...how many training sessions each player was able to deliver on. We have a very good handle on that now, which is great."

But the shock departures of three key members of the management will be unsettling for Donegal players and fans alike, as the panel look to recover from losing their Ulster and All-Ireland titles this summer and that All-Ireland quarter-final hammering by Mayo.

Gallagher, who lives in Killybegs, was seen as McGuinness' 'right hand man', building up a solid working relationship since coming on board in January 2011. They won two Anglo-Celt Cups and an All-Ireland together.

Curran and McGuinness guided the Donegal Under-21s through to the 2010 All-Ireland decider. He then joined him in the senior management team and was viewed as another key cog in the Donegal machine, his extensive analysis of games proving important as McGuinness' charges emerged as regular contenders for provincial and national honours.

The Downings man is the current Donegal Under-21 manager - they lost the Ulster U-21 final to Cavan in April. Termon native Friel was only involved with the Donegal seniors for the 2013 season.

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