ALMOST A year to the day, Patrick McBrearty lived the moment he dreamt of again.
In last year’s Ulster SFC final win over Fermanagh, McBrearty ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The road to recovery was both long and lonely.
Patrick McBrearty shakes off the attentions of Cavan’s Padraig Faulkner during Sunday’s Ulster final. Photo Evan Logan
In the winter months, he thought of little else but Clones and Ulster final Sunday again.
McBrearty ignited in Sunday’s final, kicking four points from play in the second half as Donegal won their fifth Ulster crown in nine years.
“Contrasting emotions to this day last year,” he beamed. “I probably knew leaving here I was going to be out for a significant time.
“We’re sitting here with five Ulster championships. This is a dream come true.
“I’m very proud of the boys today. They gave me an opportunity to come back here and rectify it.
“It wasn’t just me. I had a team around me in Dublin, where I’m based and a team at the weekends in Donegal. Without them boys I wouldn’t be here today.”
It has been some journey for McBrearty since that moment in 2011 when Maxi Curran – a member of Jim McGuinness’s back room team at the time – ushered McBrearty into the senior dressing room after he had played in the minor game. McBrearty replaced Michael Hegarty, an icon for both their club, Kilcar, and Donegal.
Before that afternoon, when Donegal beat Antrim, Donegal hadn’t won a game in the Ulster Championship since 2007 and thoughts of an Ulster title seemed as absurd as they were fanciful.
Now, McBrearty and co have collected five of them. The Kilcar ace, who doesn’t turn 26 until August, stands on the cusp of a landmark 100th game for Donegal. His next appearance will see him hit the century.
Already, he has scored seven goals and 253 points (274 points) for Donegal.
“There’s a lot of boys here with five now, starting off in 2011 it would have only been a dream,” he said.
“You see the scenes. People talking about scrapping the provincial championships, they should come up to Clones today and see the smiles on Donegal people’s faces.”
McBrearty, an All-Ireland winner in 2012, was on crutches for Donegal’s games in the Super 8s last year, but is ready for action this time.
The memories of a home loss to Tyrone – even if Donegal did handsomely topple the Red Hands in this year’s Ulster semi-final – remains something that Donegal want to put right.
McBrearty said: “We regrouped in November and we had a lot of questions to answer. We looked at the Tyrone game and saw where we went wrong and as a group and man to man we asked questions of each other.
“We said we had to get back onto the training field, get up out of Division 2 and take every Ulster Championship game as it comes.
“We knew if we got our end of things right we would be back here. We’re a very young team. Donegal football is in a good place.”Tags: