Donegal student McBrearty has final say
Published 17/07/2013 | 07:00
With 20 minutes of the game left, All-Ireland champions Donegal were caught in a slugging match with Tyrone on May 26.
Locked at 1-6 to 0-9 for nine minutes, there was a sense of a decisive score landing soon. Donegal hadn't troubled the scoreboard for the first 14 minutes of the second half when Patrick McBrearty took hold of the ball.
He spun and left Dermot Carlin in his wake before heading along the endline. From some distance away, Martin Penrose lined him up for a shoulder. When the contact came, those in the press box shuddered. But McBrearty didn't even flinch as he took it before laying off for Ross Wherity to flick to the net.
The consensus after that was that McBrearty had spent a hard winter in the gym to take that kind of knock.
Not so. It may surprise many to learn that the Kilcar teenager does not use the gym, nor will he, heading into Sunday's Ulster Final against Monaghan at Clones.
When he was playing schoolboy soccer for the Republic of Ireland, he undertook a programme called 'Emerging Talent', which concentrated on core stability and body weight exercises.
When he was drafted into the Donegal senior squad, the choice of doing weights was his to make.
He turned it down.
"I felt myself at the time," says McBrearty, "that I was big and strong enough for inter-county football. I made the decision that I did not want to go to the gym, and I think I made the right decision."
The goal against Tyrone was proof. The way in which he sped away from Carlin reminded us of his awesome pace. "I can do 20 metres in 2.7 seconds," he informs us.
That time was set at the Australian Rules trials he attended. The only person to beat him was Dublin's Jack McCaffrey, who broke all sorts of records that day.
Besides, the training Donegal do is enough for anyone, he comments.
"We just go out and empty the tanks every time we go out onto the training field. We set our task that we will train really hard and thankfully that pays off for us."
But despite the interest from scouts in the AFL, McBrearty made the decision to stay at home and pursue an Arts degree in Maynooth college. The bare statistics back him up.
He is only 19 yet this is his third year in inter-county football. He has a Celtic Cross already and two Ulster medals. He has played 15 games of Championship football and only lost once – against Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final.
Before his debut, Donegal hadn't won a game in Ulster since 2007.
Even with all this success, McBrearty has a modesty that has been drilled into him by the influential people in his life. Rory Gallagher's involvement with his club, Kilcar, has meant he has been able to nurture the youngster.
"Rory has brought aspects to my game that if he wasn't there, I wouldn't have at the minute," he reveals.
"He doesn't often applaud you, he would criticise you, but I like him because of that. He doesn't let you get big-headed, he keeps your feet on the ground and that runs throughout the team."
Referring back to Colm McFadden's scoring exploits in the Ulster semi-final against Down, McBrearty continues: "Colm might have kicked those points, but he might be criticised for not running back. Rory is a very good manager, he knows what he is at and he has been a big influence on all the Kilcar lads' careers so far."
In his student life, McBrearty has to make the journey from NUI Maynooth, Co Kildare, to training. He is there studying an Arts degree that takes in the wide spectrum of, amongst other elements, Irish history, the Renaissance and the World Wars.
Back in Donegal, he admits that everything has changed since he became an All-Ireland winner.
"The experience has been unbelievable, something that you can't prepare for. For a county that is football crazy there are going to be changes. You can't walk down the main street of a town but you are noticed. It's a massive transition for me as a 19-year-old to be getting used to," McBrearty adds.
Right now, what he is used to is winning everything and this Sunday represents his chance to win his third Ulster title, an astonishing opportunity for someone who will still be playing under-21s next year.
Donegal will not underestimate Monaghan. They were got at by Down and realise there will be elements of that performance that Monaghan will apply.
Yet there is a remorseless streak in this Donegal team, characterised by McBrearty's view on how short his career is, and his thoughts on winning.
"You have to be greedy. That's the bottom line."