McGuinness 'so proud' as Donegal crowned Ulster champions

Jim McGuinness celebrates
McGuinness won his fourth Ulster title as Donegal boss [Getty Images]

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness heaped praise on his players as they were crowned Ulster champions thanks to a 6-5 penalty shootout win over Armagh after a dramatic provincial final finished 0-20 to 0-20.

An All-Ireland winner in his first spell, McGuinness returned to lead his county this season, instigating a turnaround that saw them win the Allianz League Division Two title and now the Ulster Championship.

After losing to Down in the championship last season, and then to Ulster rivals Tyrone in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals, McGuinness' homecoming has been widely cited as the catalyst for rapid improvement.

The Glenties man, however, was keen to instead credit his players.

"I'm so proud of these boys," he said.

"There's too much talk about management and all that there, these are the boys that have done it.

"They came from a low base, they trained hard, they got their heads down, and they're Ulster champions.

"That's the thing that gives you most in your heart, that they've climbed that ladder."

When Armagh scored the first three points of the second half, Donegal were four behind but fought back with Niall O Donnell prominent in the comeback.

McGuinness believes his side were able to call upon the lessons learned from overturning previous deficits during this campaign.

"We were in the same boat against Armagh up in Armagh and we responded," he added.

"There were a lot of things today that we can tighten up on and sharpen up on, but there were a lot of moments throughout the course of the season where they've been challenged.

"Up in Armagh was one of them. The wheels came off in Croke Park [against Armagh in the Division Two final] and they responded again, and in the Tyrone [Ulster semi-final], we were three points down twice.

"In the second half, it felt a long way back but they responded.

"For all the talk about them and their frailties, they've managed to dig deep and get the results."

Shaun Patton celebrates
Goalkeeper Shaun Patton was the Donegal hero, saving Shane McPartlan's penalty [Getty Images]

With each side's first five penalties converted, Shaun Patton was Donegal's hero when he saved from Shane McPartlan to secure his county's first Ulster title since 2019.

After lifting the Anglo Celt, the St. Eunan's man said last year's struggles helped the side develop the necessary resilience to succeed.

"We were in a tough place last year and we came through it," he said.

"It might not have been the worst thing ever to happen us as a team because we got tight and bonded together as a team.

"Thankfully Jim came back in and he's put in a lot of work with his backroom staff and everyone involved.

"The work put in is unbelievable and it means everything for the people of Donegal, not just the players. The following of Donegal is unbelievable.

"It's a proud moment for us and Donegal football to be back up the stairs in Clones and lifting that Anglo Celt.

"There's nothing like it."