NOW one of the most experienced players in the dressing room, Donegal forward Patrick McBrearty knows the routine more than most.
The norm went out the window last March with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic – and has yet to return.
After a League semi-final on Saturday – a game that couldn’t be followed by a final due to the tight schedule – Donegal move onto the Championship with just two weeks to prepare.
It’s ten years now since McBrearty, then a raw teenager, was thrust onto the stage by Jim McGuinness for his senior debut against Antrim. McBrearty was still a student at Colaiste na Carraige when given his bow.
In the absence of the injured Michael Murphy, McBrearty has carried the baton in recent weeks, his return of 26 points showing his form as an Ulster SFC joust with Down comes into sharp focus.
“Down will be gunning for us and we have to be ready,” McBrearty said after Saturday’s 1-18 to 1-14 defeat to Dublin in Cavan.
“We’re happy to get to a League semi-final, but we know that we have a battle in Newry. Down will probably feel as if they should have been in an Ulster final last year.
“Im just happy to be injury free and have a run of games. That hasn’t been the case for the last two or three years. I’m just happy to be getting full games under my belt now.”
Donegal were under strength on Saturday night, manager Declan Bonner taking no undue risks.
Young sub Eoghan McGettigan scored 1-1 late on – and McBrearty believes the experience will stand to the Naomh Conaill man.
McBrearty said: “It’s unreal for Eoghan. He has put his hand up now and he’ll be full of confidence.
“The one good thing is that the squad is very competitive at the minute, especially in the forward line. Every training session we go to is very competitive. You can’t afford to have one bad truing or a bad match or you’ll be down the pecking order.
“We were missing four or five men. Some of the lads who came in put up their hands and those boys will be pushing for game time in Newry.”
Dublin swung the pendulum late in the first half, spurred by Paddy Small’s goal on the half-hour.
The six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions moved seven in front in the early stages of the second half.
McBrearty said: “We were happy with where we were at half-time. We gave away the first three balls that we had in our hands in the second half. We were chasing the game then the whole time.
“They punished us. That’s what Dublin do and you can’r afford to make mistakes against them. You can’t afford to make the mistakes that we did.”Tags: