In the absence of Patrick McBrearty, Donegal are likely to be armed with a redrawn blueprint for their All-Ireland quarter-final group phase.
McBrearty’s cruciate knee ligament injury robs Donegal of one of the country’s top forwards and their own top scorer.
The Kilcar man sustained the season-ending injury in the Ulster final win over Fermanagh and confirmation arrived as a hammer blow to Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager.
McBrearty was front and centre of Bonner’s plans and, given his scoring prowess, replacing him won’t be easy.
“There is tweaking to be done,” Bonner admitted.
“We will have to look at that. The game plan will probably differ.
“Patrick’s one of the top forwards in the country so it’s a huge blow, there’s no doubt about it. We knew fairly early, on the Monday after the Ulster final, that Paddy was gone. It’s a huge blow for Patrick and a huge blow for the whole squad.
“It’s a squad game. We have men there training at a very high standard and I have no doubt that any one of them can come in and do a job on Saturday night.
“They’re big boots to fill, no doubt, but someone else will get a chance.”
Bonner has something of a conundrum in replacing McBrearty’s talents on the edge of the square.
Michael Murphy has been in what could be considered the form of his life as he pulls the Donegal strings from deep and it would be a case of robbing from Peter to pay Paul were the captain to be stationed inside, given the influence that could be lost elsewhere.
Murphy can surely be expected to be seen at stages on the edge of Stephen Cluxton’s square, with the likes perhaps of Odhrán Mac Niallais or Michael Langan other alternatives that Bonner could send in to partner Jamie Brennan.
A return to a defence-based gameplan cannot be discounted with McBrearty’s scoring worth taken into account, although Bonner is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Every team presents a different challenge and we always look at our game plan,” he said.
“Training has gone well. The initial euphoria died down when the news came through that Patrick had an injury to keep him out for the season. It was a dampener there’s no doubt. But we have been at it since that Wednesday night and we have had seven or eight really good sessions.”
Martin McElhinney, Martin O’Reilly and Nathan Mullins are all back in training given Bonner a full hand to choose from, with the exception of McBrearty.
And with three games over the next four weeks, his squad will be tested.
He said: “The squad is going to be crucial over the next four weeks. We could be using anything up to 26/27/28 players, that’s just the way it is.
“We’re really looking forward to it. It’s a great place to be in the Super 8s, and we have three games in the next four weeks – let’s get at it.”Tags: