Up until recently young Patrick McBrearty never wore gloves, preferring to use a hair jel, Red Dax, to give him the grip needed when on the football field, but like many things in the Donegal set-up, that has all changed.
“It was something I used to do on warm days. I never wore gloves and Jim used to be on to me, ‘you’re wearing gloves the next day; you’re not turning up to Breffni Park without your gloves. I’ve put away the Red Dax for the nights out and I’ve started wearing the gloves!”
That was one of the lighter moments as the young Kilcar starlet handled the throngs of media at the Donegal All-Ireland Press Night.
The pressure is something that seems to come very easily to him. “There is pressure but it’s something you have to deal with. You’re in an All-Ireland final and it’s a place you want to be.
“I have matured as a person and as a footballer in the last year. I’m very happy with the way I’ve progressed and I have to give a big thanks to Jim and Rory Gallagher for the way they have matured me as a footballer.
“To be around these boys four or five days of the week, of course they will mature you. Even going back to school has matured me, because you were going back from this environment. People were looking at you and watching your actions, so it has definitely matured me as a person,” said Patrick.
The corner forward is due to start is third level course at Maynooth on Monday next, but that is likely to be postponed for a day or two. He is used to having fellow students on his watch.
“They’re coming to your games to watch you play and they see you in the corridor the day after in the school.”
Patrick says that you are not likely to get ahead of yourself, whether that be at school or on the team and he has made new friends.
“You can see we are all best mates. There’s no stubbornness towards any other player. We’re just top mates and I think that shows on the field.”
Recalling the first time he joined the panel, there was a shock in store. “I remember the first session in Letterkenny. In the first drill I marked Karl Lacey and I couldn’t believe it. It was a real reality shock. He dragged me all over the place. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was unbelievable experience to have at the time but I haven’t looked back since.
“Everyone has each other’s respect. That is one of the good things in the squad and that’s one of the things we take that on to the field together, everyone respects the man beside him..”
And he has quickly learned that under Jim McGuinness, the team takes precedence over everything else. “When you have stars like Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, you are kinda like the third option. It’s hard to deal with like I’ve said any part I can play in a Donegal victory, I’ll do it. There are days when you’re going to be the main man. I’m enjoying my football at the minute, just working hard and the football takes care of itself.
“In the Kerry game, I was deeper than I ever was in my life. It was good. You have boys like Paul Galvin tackling you. It was a good experience, but any part I can play I’m happy.”
When asked if he could be starring for Kilcar at half-back in the future, he quickly replies. “Definitely not.”
Thrown in at the deep end last year, McBrearty says that it was a real eye opener. “My body took a big battering last year, thrown in at the deep end to championship training, something I wasn’t used to. I probably had never trained at that intensity, but I didn’t really train from January to June apart from doing bits myself. I feel I’m peaking at the right time now, flat out since June. I haven’t missed a training session. The fitter you are, the better chance you have to survive out in Croke Park,” says Patrick.
The run of success that he has achieved - 11 wins in 12 championship games - is dreamland for a Donegal footballer, but he is still keeping it low key. “I’m not taking it for granted. I’ve had enough disappointments throughout my career already.” This brought a swift response from the media - ‘Like what?’
“Schools, whatever. I’m that competitive, I don’t like losing,” said Patrick, who said that Ulster championship medals were scarce in Donegal.
“Long may it continue. It’s not going to be like this every year. Hopefully it will, but it’s likely that it won’t.”
Patrick is the only member of the present panel who was not born when Donegal won their only All-Ireland title, but he fully aware of it.
“But I’ve been reminded of it since 1992. That tape has been played in our house many times. They were great times and hopefully we can make our own little bit of history.”
After the Cork game, his younger brother, Stephen, reflected a view that may be alien to older Donegal supporters, but is understandable given the way the 1992 success has been played out in the years since. The younger McBrearty, in celebrating the great win over Cork, said: ‘Maybe they’ll stop talking about ‘92 now’.
“He made that comment to Matt Gallagher in the Harcourt Hotel after the game (against Cork) and I think Matt’s wasn’t too happy at all. They were looking at a photo and he (Stephen) said maybe they’ll take that photo down and put up the 2012 one,” said Patrick, who said Stephen was a bit cheeky.
“Hopefully it’s not forgotten, 1992, but also hopefully we can make our own bit of history,” says Patrick.
McBrearty has no problems doing the long hours as long as he can keep on the winning run. “This is exactly where I want to be. I wouldn’t want to be going out. I’d rather being doing this year than going out to a Night Club or a pub. This is my life; this is what I was doing since I was ten or 11. Thankfully this is position I’m in and I’m not taking it for granted.
“It has always been part of my plan. I remember one of my mates saying if I would take a drink on one of first nights out, but I said naw, I’ve other things on my mind. I want to be one of the best footballers in Ireland. Hopefully, I’m on that track.”
Like most footballers, Patrick has had great support from his family. “My mum and dad play a massive role in everything I’ve done. I don’t think they have missed a game in the last four years, whether it be soccer - they even went to Spain and over to Scotland to see me playing soccer. They’ve been everywhere.”
He is also personally motivated: “It’s something I’ve always wanted. I want to see myself on the wall and I want people to talk about me in 50 or 60 years time.
“To work with a man like Jim McGuinness is an unbelievable experience. From day one, 15th May last year, my first championship game to now has been a rollercoaster ride.”
That first championship game, when he played minor and senior on the same day, is something that he will never forget.
“I remember it well. I was taken straight from the field after the minor game and the senior team were already in a huddle. There was a big plate of pasta for me. It was an unbelievable experience.”