After 11 months of intensive rehab, sitting in the John Vesey stand was never going to be an option for Patrick McBrearty.
The Kilcar man, missing since last June because of a cruciate knee ligament injury, was back in the Donegal colours on Sunday and it was as if he was never away.
McBrearty (pictured by Evan Logan) had two wides in a claustrophobic opening, but he soon found his range and ended the afternoon with five points in a 0-15 to 0-9 win.
After surgery last autumn, McBrearty began a long process of getting back to fitness. A handful of games for Kilcar confirmed his return, but there were those who wondered if the cut and thrust of Enniskillen would’ve been a case of too much too soon.
“If I was fit to play I was fit to play,” McBrearty said.
“My form was good enough in training so naw, it was never an option to come off the bench… well, with myself anyway, it was up to the management obviously!
“I always thought I was sharp enough and felt fit enough to start.
“It’s good to be back. It wasn’t the easiest game to get back into but it was good to get 70 minutes under the belt of inter-county football.”
McBrearty had been one of the form forwards in Ireland last year when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury forced him off in the second half of the Ulster final win over Fermanagh in Clones.
He said: “It was a long road back. The first month or so was the longest part but getting over the op then, it goes very quick. I had a good team around me, a good medical set-up both in Dublin, with Enda King, and in Donegal with Cathal Ellis and the boys.
“There was a wee temptation in the League final, but I had a good base put in and we just sat down and said naw, we’ll just go for the first couple of club league games and I think it was the right thing to do.
“It would’ve been too soon.”
McBrearty took part in the warm-up at Croke Park before the Division Two final win over Meath and it was a signal that he was nearing a return.
The 25-year-old was given some sharp words from Fermanagh players after posting two early wides – ‘they were welcoming me back, I think,’ he mused – but McBrearty waved his wand to kick some key scores.
He said: “Naw look, those shots I usually take and sometimes they go over and I’ll take them again if they pop up. They were two or three yards off, the execution just wasn’t good and there was a swirling breeze too.”
McBrearty admits that he was sick missing Donegal’s games in the Super 8 series last year as Declan Bonner’s team went within 20 minutes of reaching an All-Ireland semi-final.
Remarkably now in his ninth summer as a senior player, McBrearty can’t wait for Saturday-week’s semi-final with Tyrone.
He said: “It was the first Championship games I’d missed since I joined the set-up and the Dublin game in particular, it was tough seeing the boys running out.
“I had full confidence in the lads that replaced me but unfortunately we didn’t get over the line. It’s good to be back now, everything’s going well in the camp, there’s top young fellas there so we’ll get the head down for the next two weeks now before Tyrone in Breffni Park.
“There’s been plenty of battles between Tyrone and ourselves through the years – we know them and they know us. This one is going to be big… we feel that we kind of let the game last year slip, we were Ulster champions as well, so we’re really looking forward to it.”Tags: