If you were to walk into the grounds of Magh Ene college in Bundoran, on a cold Tuesday winter night last year, chances are that at the football pitch you would see, amongst a mixture of junior cert, TY, 5th and leaving cert students, a young man of about 18, short in stature, picking up the ball.
A quick glance to the left, a dummy, and he’s gone. That’s it. You won’t catch him. Soloing with his head up constantly, he picks a pass, puts on a burst of speed to get the return pass, and rifles the ball to the back of the net.
The damp soggy field that Magh Ene’s football team train on is a far cry from the glistening grass of Croke Park for Jamie Brennan, but training alongside him, you get the feeling the there is nowhere else he would rather be.
On Sunday next Jamie will be representing Realt Na Mara, Bundoran in the Donegal Intermediate Championship final against Naomh Colmcille in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny, and the outcome of the game could well depend on the talented Brennan.
“He was always really enthusiastic about any sport,” says Magh Ene coach, James Gilmartin, a native of Manorhamilton, himself a former footballer for Glencar-Manorhamilton’s senior team in Leitrim.
Talking about Brennan’s achievement in reaching an All-Ireland minor final with Donegal in 2014, he says: ”It really was a fantastic honour for the school, and it really brought great publicity to the school and Bundoran, but above all it was a great example to any young footballer in our school, and the Bundoran club, about what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.”
According to Gilmartin, Brennan was “talented in loads of sports, not just Gaelic football, but also hurling and soccer. He played underage for Donegal’s hurling squads, and was also apart of the underage system at League of Ireland club Finn Harps.
“He was always hugely determined in every way, a high level of determination and was a very agreeable player to coach, always took what you said on board, and he was greatly enthusiastic about his football,” says Gilmartin.
On Sunday, Jamie will play in yet another massive game. He’s already played in quite a few of those, considering he’s still only a teenager, yet he’ll enter the field of play on Sunday as a marked man, already known as one of Bundoran’s most skilful players. He’ll be hoping the match goes better than one of his most recent finals - Donegal’s minors lost by four points to a Kerry side who won their first minor All-Ireland for 20 years. Despite going through a frustrating game, he scored 1-2 in Croke Park in September of last year, pulling Donegal right back into the game in the second half. Despite coming up short that day, he’ll undoubtedly be positive about a result on Sunday.
“He was massively driven as a player, it didn’t matter what the score was, he kept going and fighting. He has a terrific attitude, a leader’s attitude,” says Gilmartin.
Bundoran have looked solid so far in the Intermediate Championship, apart from a scare against Aodh Ruadh in the semi-final, yet despite this they have plenty of work to do before senior championship status becomes reality.
All down to one game then. But it’s safe to assume that Jamie Brennan’s drive, determination and ambition won’t be deserting him any time soon.