Jason McGuinness, the authoritative and experienced St. Patrick’s Athletic defender, grew up with football an inherent presence in his life. Positive and appreciative, here he speaks to Brian Strahan and looks back on the solid base he received in life and football and how he wishes to develop that learnedness when his playing days end.
Affable and assured, McGuinness speaks warmly about his career and those who have shaped and continue to shape his career as well as his own deep drive to develop and prosper.
Brian Strahan: Where did you grow up?
Jason McGuinness: Dunard, a nice little estate beside Cabra [north Dublin].
BS: Plenty of footballing heritage in Cabra. You and Wayne Henderson must have crossed paths in your early years?
JMG: I was well aware of him growing up in that area [and] worked with his brother Dave Henderson.
BS: When and how did your interest in football begin?
JMG: As Early as I can remember. I was obsessed. If I wasn’t playing, I was watching it. Football mad.
BS: So you went to The Brunner (St. Paul’s CBS primary school) on North Brunswick Street. Was football as opposed to Gaelic football the primary sport?
JMG: Yeah, football was the main sport there, some good players came out of that school. Noel king, Philly Hughes.
BS: John Giles?
JMG: I think he might have went there too. All these guys are lucky enough to have gone to the same school as me!
BS: So when did you realise you were any good?
JMG: Never. I still haven’t realised!
BS: Seriously though, would you consider yourself a confidence player?
JMG: I’m very confident in my ability and confident in my preparation. I’m a player that trusts in my own ability; one that trusts in my preparation – that’s what helps me.
BS: You say you trust in yourself and your ability. Is that something you needed to do to make it? And if so, where did that belief come from?
JMG: It’s kind of the ‘leave no stone unturned’ kind of approach. If you know you’ve prepared better than your opponent and you know you’ve done your best to give yourself the chance to win then you’ll go into the game knowing you’ve a good chance to win. That’s where your confidence comes from. Confidence in your preparation.
BS: So going back to Dunard – you were mad about football, sure. But what, or who maybe, got you into it?
JMG: I was crazy about it. My dad and my uncle Paul are football mad. My Dad is a Leeds fan and my uncle, rest his soul, was a massive Man United fan. So those two did pass it on.
BS: Which club did your loyalties lie with?
JMG: I was a big Man United fan.
BS: And where did you play your own football initially?
JMG: I started with Sheriff Y.C, a fantastic club, and played there for years, I loved the club.
BS: Sheriff Street has a very good name. What is it that makes it special, though?
JMG: The people that run the club. They couldn’t do enough for their young players, [like] taking us on tournaments to Denmark – really looking after us. Still to this day I’m in contact with the coaches and ex-players.
BS: Are they unique in that sense? I ask because GAA clubs are given more credit for having a sense of community than football (soccer) clubs?
JMG: Yeah, to them football was really important, but so was enjoying yourself, making friends and other good values like having respect for people. That club was great for me and my friends. It helped me become the player I am today.
BS: Did you not play for Tolka Rovers too?
JMG: I sure did. I moved to Tolka after Sheriff. Then from there I spent my last year of schoolboy football at Bohs where I progressed through the ranks, playing reserves and then getting a full-time professional contract with the first team.
BS: Do you remember the day you realised you were going to turn professional?
JMG: Yes, I’d spoken to Stephen Kenny and he offered me a full-time contract after doing well in games and under the guidance of Gino Brazil, my coach at the time, an ex-Shamrock Rovers legend.
BS: Your first start for Bohs and your only Irish cap [at Under-21 level] came within a few days. Things were moving quickly.
JMG: Yeah things did; very quickly. I did well in an LOI selection squad against Celtic and caught the eye of Don Givens in the game, scored in it too and a week later he selected me in his squad.
BS: It was the start of a very solid period for you at Bohemians. If it wasn’t for the financial constraints in 2010, is it feasible you could still be at Dalymount Park?
JMG: Most definitely. Unfortunately for Bohs, that squad had to split up. I loved my time at Bohs. Coming through the youths there, it was a huge honour to play schoolboy and reserves and then progress to the first team.
BS: Up to that point you’d only played for Dublin-based clubs. Was moving to Sligo a big deal?
JMG: From a footballing point of view it was an easy decision. [They had a] great manager at the time in Paul Cooke, who was building something good and great players like Joe Ndo and Richie Ryan.
BS: But from a non-footballing point of view?
JMG: I loved life there. So did my family, everything about the Sligo move was all positive.
BS: So what made you return to Shamrock Rovers?
JMG: It was time to get my little girl set for school.
BS: So then why move to St. Pat’s?
JMG: Got offered a better deal.
BS: What do you see this season bringing, and do you think you have many seasons left in you in the top flight?
JMG: It’s hard to predict what this season will bring because it’s an entirely new team. Some excellent signings have been made. All we can do is work extremely hard and take each game as it comes. As for myself, I feel as long as I’m enjoying my football and keep working hard to maintain my fitness, I can play for a few more seasons if I choose to.
At the moment I’m as fit as I’ve ever been because I do the right things. As you get older you tend to look after yourself better – eat right, rest. Nights out are few and far between. You become more aware of your body and what it needs to be able to play.
BS: Do you see yourself getting into coaching or do you have the interest?
JMG: I’ve already got into coaching and just recently finished my B licence. I’ve been given an excellent opportunity to coach at St. Kevin’s Boys. I’ve been there nearly a year now, learning loads under Alan Caffrey – in my opinion one of the best young coaches in the country.
What I’ve learnt there is priceless for me going forward as a coach. The club is ambitious, hard working and an excellent place for me to learn. I really can’t speak highly enough of the place. The kids there are lucky. I’m grateful to Alan Caffrey and Ken Donohoe (Director of Football) for giving me the opportunity to come on board and learn as a coach.
Brian Strahan, Pundit Arena