DONEGAL MIDFIELDER Hugh McFadden remains aware of the boots he’s filling, the footsteps he’s following.
Time was when McFadden followed other imprints in the sand as he cut his teeth in League of Ireland soccer with, first, Finn Harps and then Sligo Rovers.
When Jim McGuinness drafted him into the Donegal squad, in 2014, the direction was altered.
He had to bide his time that first year when Donegal won Ulster and reached an All-Ireland final, but now the Killybegs man is one of Declan Bonner’s most trusted lieutenants. Indeed, in Michael Murphy’s absence, he was Bonner’s captain.
“My main priority now it to always put in a performance that gets me back on the field the next day,” McFadden says.
“I’ve never hid away from the fact that I did find it hard to break into the side for a while.
“Trying to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh, Martin McElhinney, Christy Toye… these lads out around the middle of the field; it’s not always easy.
“There have been a lot of days that have provided a lot of learning. Without a doubt. We’ve all had tough days.
“It’s still early days. There are bigger days and much bigger tests to come. But that is the level we’re striving to reach.”
A 0-15 to 0-9 win over Fermanagh on Sunday has put Donegal into an Ulster semi-final, with Tyrone waiting in the wings on Saturday-week in Cavan.
The return of Patrick McBrearty – back after 11 months out of action through a cruciate injury – was pivotal as Ulster champions Donegal began their title defence with a win.
Paddy is one of if not the best inside forwards in the country,” McFadden says.
“For us to have him back on the field is a serious boost. The way he’s gone about his business since the operation, the rehab, it’s been seriously impressive.
“The condition he’s come back in is unbelievable. Giving the fact he’s up and down the road from Dublin makes that all the more remarkable.
“I thought when we needed him, in that second-half, he really stood up and was counted. There was no holding back.
“He’s a class act. I read somewhere this week that he’s into his ninth Championship season. That’s remarkable for a man of his age.”
Tyrone have won the last three Championship jousts with Donegal, including last year in the Super 8s, when Mickey Harte’s team handed Donegal a first League or Championship defeat in Ballybofey in eight years.
McFadden, though, believes Donegal have the tools to compete at the top table.
He says: “We’d be very confident we have the players to compete and beat anybody.”Tags: