Donegal will be a different animal, warns McBrearty
Donegal's star attacker, Paddy McBrearty, has revealed that the team and management have thrashed out the reasons for their fade-outs in big games.
In the last two Ulster finals, Donegal have been in great positions only to lose out in the dying seconds against Monaghan and Tyrone, while the same thing happened to them in the All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Dublin last August.
Despite this habit, the 23-year-old Kilcar man feels that Donegal are still in the mix for the big trophies, including Sam Maguire.
"I definitely feel we are in the elite tier in the country. When people talk about Tyrone up there contending for All-Irelands and yet our record against them has been very good; going into extra-time in the Ulster final last year we were up by a point," he began.
"Unfortunately letting it slip, it didn't make us a bad team in the space of three months. But in the Dublin game, we had them on the ropes and after Ryan (McHugh) got the goal, we took our foot off the pedal immediately after that.
"There have been discussions and something we have talked about, as to why these things happen because I suppose it is a recurring factor."
He also claimed responsibility on the part of the players, stating: "In the Ulster final when we went three or four points up after half-time, we didn't push on from there. It is definitely a player thing. It is nothing to do with anybody else, it's our own issue with momentum.
"It has lost us some big games. (the Ulster final against) Monaghan in 2015 - I know we kicked a lot of wides that day but we didn't kick on either. Then, the (2016) Ulster final, the Dublin game…
"It is something we are going to try to resolve in the next few months in the league."
Donegal start their campaign this Sunday with the visit of Kerry to Letterkenny. The corresponding fixture last year was pock-marked with outbreaks of violence, most notably when Kerry forward Alan Fitzgerald broke Donegal defender Neil McGee's nose after the Gweedore man appeared to attempt to break the Kingdom attacker's finger.
McBrearty admitted getting caught up in the spirit of a spiky game, recalling: "From the hop ball, everything started. I was involved in an incident myself with Aidan O'Mahony underneath the stand. I was probably lucky enough to get away with it. I don't get involved in scuffles but I did that day and I don't know why. We didn't go out to set that tone, but from the first 10 seconds there was a schmozzle."
Since breaking onto the scene as a 17-year-old, McBrearty has always had current manager Rory Gallagher as either a county selector and manager, or as club manager with Kilcar.
He welcomed the three-year contract extension handed to the Fermanagh man as he goes about rebuilding the squad following high-profile retirements of Rory Kavanagh, Eamonn McGee, Leo McLoonea and Colm McFadden, along with Paul Durcan's continuing absence.
"To me personally and for the other players in the squad, to the senior players he is definitely the only candidate for the job," McBrearty explained.
"We have been one kick of the ball away from winning two Ulster finals and we haven't got past the line yet.
"But from the players' viewpoint, Rory is definitely the man for the job."