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Donegal’s All Ireland win to be made into a movie

MusicBy Esther McCarthy
Jimmy McGuinness celebrate's Donegal's historic win
Jimmy McGuinness celebrate's Donegal's historic win

The extraordinary story of how a written-off Donegal team turned their fortunes around to win the All-Ireland Football Championship is to be made into a movie.

Until Victory Always – Donegal legend Jimmy McGuinness’s award-winning memoir – is to be adapted into a drama, the Sunday World can reveal.

Included in the story is a detailed account of how McGuinness took over the wounded team in 2010, only to win three Ulster Championships and the 2012 All-Ireland final by the time he stepped down four years later.

The victory was just Donegal’s second All-Ireland in 120 years and has made him an icon in his native county.

The memoir also recalls the personal tragedies he suffered in his life with the loss of two brothers, and how sport has the power to sustain us through our darkest moments.

“The memoir is a brilliant sports book, remarkably moving and personal,” said a movie insider. “It’s an inspiring story and has all the ingredients to make the basis of a great drama.”

Indeed, such is the story’s potential that some top talents are already attached to the project, which is in the very early stages of development.

Well-known filmmaker Kirsten Sheridan, who got an Oscar nomination for co-writing the script for the acclaimed In America with her father Jim, is working on the screenplay. The busy filmmaker is also working on a biopic of Amy Winehouse, with Prometheus star Noomi Rapace playing the singer.

And the drama will be produced by acclaimed Irish production company Fastnet Films, whose recent successes include the festival hit Mammal and the Pat Shortt comedy Life’s a Breeze.

But it’ll be a while before football fans get to see Donegal’s story on screen, in what is the first big GAA drama of its kind. The project is listed as in development, with no director or cast yet connected to it.

After a successful career as a player, the colourful McGuinness took the reins of his senior county team in 2010 when the team was down on its luck.

Even though his management approach was divisive among GAA fans, it got results and revolutionised tactics in the sport.

The turnaround – leading them to All-Ireland glory just two years later – was extraordinary, and won him fans outside the sport, including golfer Paul McGinley and Glasgow Celtic football manager Neil Lennon.

McGuinness went on to work as a performance consultant at Celtic.

He’s beloved in his native county – one fan even recreated the famous Rio de Janeiro statue and called it Jim the Redeemer on All-Ireland final day.

But the sporting legend has encountered personal heartache too. On a recent Late Late Show appearance he spoke movingly of his brothers Charles and Mark, who both died in tragic circumstances.

Jim was just 12 when his 16-year-old sibling Charles passed away from a heart defect. Paying tribute, he said: “He was someone who I felt was really, really cool and someone I looked up to. He was a beautiful looking boy and had a great manner about him.”

He also said that after hearing from others that Charles could have played for the county minors, he remembers thinking: “I am going to do that.” He has since said he was driven on in memory of his brother.

More tragedy followed in 1998 when a second brother, Mark, passed away following a road accident in which Jim was a passenger.

“I held his hand, stared into his eyes and told him I loved him,” he said last year. “He was absolutely fanatical about me, fanatical about football, fanatical about Donegal and Glenties and we were best friends.”

McGuinness’s account of his life on and off the pitch in Until Victory Always was widely praised. Described as “confessional, moving, funny and fiercely honest”, it won the Bord Gáis Energy Sports Book of the Year.

The book was awarded the top prize over memoirs from other sporting legends like Henry Shefflin, Peter Stringer and Packie Bonner.