'If we don't win it I'd be delighted if Galway do' - McGuinness

Jim McGuinness leads Donegal back into an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2014
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness consoles Louth forward Sam Mulroy after Donegal's 1-23 to 0-18 All-Ireland quarter-final win in Croke Park. [Inpho]

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness says if his team does not win the All-Ireland title this year, he hopes his great friend Padraic Joyce will lead Galway to victory.

Donegal enjoyed a comfortable 1-23 to 0-18 quarter-final win over Louth on Sunday to set up an All-Ireland SFC semi-final with Galway in two weeks' time.

While acknowledging the shock exit of outgoing champions Dublin on Saturday at the hands of Galway was "a big moment" McGuinness insisted it "does not change anything" for his Donegal side.

"You can’t go down that road, but obviously Dublin have been amazing for so long so whenever they get beat it’s a big moment in the championship," he said.

"It doesn’t change anything for the semi-final, we will double down on Galway because all these games are just individual battles that you have to try and understand and develop a plan around and execute."

McGuinness and Galway boss Padraic Joyce played together at IT Tralee, winning a Sigerson Cup in 1998, and have remained good friends since.

"I am looking forward to that [semi-final] because I know one of us will progress to the final, that’s being honest," he said.

"The radio silence will kick in for a wee while. I might send him a cheeky text tonight but apart from that, that’ll be it for a fortnight."

Donegal do enough to get through

Donegal trio Shane O'Donnell, Patrick McBrearty and Eoghan Ban Gallagher celebrate after Sunday's win over Louth
Shane O'Donnell, Patrick McBrearty and Eoghan Ban Gallagher are happy men walking off the Croke Park pitch after Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final win over Louth. [Inpho]

Donegal were hot favourites to dispense of a Louth side playing in its first ever All-Ireland quarter-final, but the Leinster finalists went toe-to-toe with Donegal for the first half an hour or so.

Twice Louth came to within a point of Donegal in the first half, but the Ulster champions led 0-11 to 0-8 at half time and saw the game through.

McGuinness cut an agitated, anxious figure early on as Louth traded blows with his team, but he grew more content as the game wore on.

He was particularly happy with the spread of scorers with 11 different players on target.

"The way the modern game is, you need that spread of scores coming from all over the place and we got that today," he said.

"Defensively we conceded 0-18 and Louth looked threatening and dangerous at times so there are areas we have to look at, but the important thing is to progress. Once you do that you have a chance to sort things out and make them better for the next day."

Donegal are now where they want to be, back in the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2014, the last year of McGuinness' first stint in charge.

Now he is in year one of his second spell and has transformed the county again.

Starting at a low base, they won Division Two, won the Ulster title and now are in the last four for the first time in a decade.

"We are extremely happy to be in the semi-final, if we were told that at the start of the year, we’d have taken your arm off, so we are thankful for that.

"We are delighted for the people of Donegal here and abroad who give us massive support all the time."

Donegal raiding wing-back Ryan McHugh is looking forward to an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway
Ryan McHugh celebrates after Donegal's win over Louth [Inpho]

The similarities to 2011 are there when McGuinness led Donegal to the Ulster title and an All-Ireland semi-final in his first year in charge.

Yet you get the feeling he will in no way settle for the same outcome in 2024, with Dublin's exit encouraging all the remaining teams to dream big.

"Listen, we're here now," admitted McGuinness.

"The most important thing in Championship football is to get into the next round and we must make the next fortnight count.

"Galway will present the next challenge for us and we have to try to solve those problems over the next two weeks."

On his friendship with Joyce, McGuinness was sincere in his praise for the two-time All-Ireland winner as a player with Galway in 1998 and 2001.

"If we couldn’t win it I’d be delighted for Padraic and Galway," he said.

"We had great times together, he is a great fella, a great football man and is very driven. We have great memories down in Tralee and have always stayed in contact."

McGuinness was impressed with the belief Galway showed to beat Dublin in Championship football for the first time in 90 years.

"I don’t think there was many people gave Galway a chance at half time – but they did.

"They believed in themselves and they brought a huge amount of quality and composure to the game in the second half, and belief which was the most important thing."