Jim played in midfield against Dublin in quarter-finals of 2002 – which went to a replay.
And he insisted: “The complete contrast there was that we weren’t true to ourselves. We weren’t honest with ourselves. We didn’t train hard enough. We weren’t committed enough.
“We didn’t give it everything, we didn’t leave it on the field of play. We weren’t tactically switched on, we weren’t big enough, we weren’t fast enough. So we shouldn’t have won those games (to get there).
“How we got so close to Armagh in their pomp and beat Tyrone as All-Ireland champions and drew with Dublin in 2002 (and lost the replay)… it’s beyond me.”
He said being manager gives him the chance to move Donegal forward. And forget the past.
“I felt, if we can do that against them teams while operating at that level — we can win an Ulster championship or we can push on.
“I would never say the All-Ireland because I feel you have to win the Ulster championship and be competitive in Ulster before you start thinking in those terms. You have got to basically earn it.
“This group of players now are doing all the right things and they’re being honest and if we get beat — as Roy Keane famously said, you’ve got a clear conscience.
“And if your conscience is clear and everybody is working for the better good, everybody is happy and you just move on.”
If Donegal lose, he says, they will just move on. Celebrate the Ulster championship and then look forward.
“If we lose, we will go down the road, have a few drinks. They can disperse for a while. They can start rebuilding their lives and there will not be one word about it.
“There will be no negatives. We will just go about the best way to try and make the thing better, who can make it better, how can we make x, y or z faster, bigger or stronger for next year and start the whole thing going again.
“That’s the way we will be approaching it. I have wild respect for the players because they have been so disciplined in their approach.
“Football is their life: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday is a normal week for us. They’re in a bed obviously early the nights before training so that’s a sacrifice.”
The Donegal manager revealed: “We gave them chicken goujons and cocktail sausages on a Monday night after a recovery session and they weren’t happy that we went down that road.
“They’re looking after their diet so much now and a couple of them weren’t happy about that. That’s where they have taken themselves to.”
And he says of this Sunday’s opposition: “What I find very interesting about watching Dublin is the player’s ability to transition. ‘Is there a point on here? I’m going to take four steps and bounce past you and I’m going to go all the way and draw the full-back and go for goal or I can just put it over the bar.’
“They’re coached to a very high level. They’re very switched on with regard to their forward play.”