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Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness pictured at the Sky Sports 2021 Championship launch. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness pictured at the Sky Sports 2021 Championship launch. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness pictured at the Sky Sports 2021 Championship launch. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The  last manager to oversee a Dublin C hampionship defeat has described the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions as “the most defensive team in the country”. 

Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland- winning manager Jim McGuinness says their attacking brilliance “whitewashes over everything”, but in principle everything stems from how well they defend, he says.

And he drew comparison with his own 2012 team saying that in style they are “not that far removed from the Dublin team at the moment”.

McGuinness, speaking at the launch of Sky Sports’ summer championship coverage, said he was “struggling with the paradox” of other teams trying to mirror Dublin’s attacking approach.

“It’s something of a paradox for me is that Dublin are not giving anybody anything and everybody’s trying to aspire to be Dublin going the other direction,” said McGuinness, Donegal manager when they defeated Dublin in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

“In last year’s championship, Dublin were probably the most defensive team in the country, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.

“They had 15 men inside their own 65 almost every time the opposition had the ball. The difference is that when Dublin get the ball they’re absolutely brilliant, they’re brilliant at keeping the ball, they’re brilliant at running the ball, transitioning, at kicking scores.

So that whitewashes over everything. People just see what they put up on the scoreboard and think, 'that is an amazing team'.

But what they don't get credit for is that they're an amazing defensive team. They defend for their lives, they defend in numbers, they make contact, they put in hits," McGuinness said.

McGuinness said the opening three rounds of the league, full of teams posting big scores and goals, has been crazy.

When did we transition from football to hurling?” he asked of Gaelic football’s latest makeover. “Because all the scorelines now are 0-18 or 1-20 or 1-21 or 4-21 or whatever the hell it is.

It's just one-way traffic now. It's the old Newcastle strategy, where we just outscore everybody.

But he insisted, once more, that his team could not have won the All-Ireland title with a defensive strategy alone and what they did in 2011 was never going to be enough.

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I think a lot of the things that are thrown at Donegal are thrown at them in relation to 2011 and in relation to the Dublin game in 2011.

We went from 11 points on average on the scoreboard in 2011 to 17.5 in 2012, and that’s what won us the All-Ireland. So you need both, Dublin have both at the minute.

They are playing a very aggressive transitional game, they are brilliant on the ball and brilliant in possession and they are defending like demons. There's a misstep in everyone's minds about them at the moment.

McGuinness believes his Donegal captain Michael Murphy remains “the most exceptional player, in my opinion, in the country, not just for ourselves.”

And his transformation from a more power-based full-forward to a mobile, playmaking midfielder has been huge, he added.

"Before he got the injury, looking at him against Tyrone that night (in the league) he looked leaner than I had seen him before, he looked more athletic and he has been on a journey probably since Rorys (Gallagher) time with Donegal.

"He’s been moving his body type and body shape from a really big, strong full-forward to a leaner sort of specimen that can play around the middle of the park.

That wasn’t an easy challenge to take on for himself, because in the first year or two he was going in against players who played in that position all of their lives and that was tough.

But he now looks more like a midfielder more than he does a full-forward, so the transformation has been huge. Hes integral, the way we build our possession game, the way we build our attacks, he’s a massive part of that.

McGuinness is looking forward to a summer of good football.

Theres a lot of teams quietly confident, beavering away, like Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal and the obvious ones that will feel they can upset the applecart."

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