Frank McGlynn spent most of last year as a tight-marking corner back, mostly out of necessity and also because of an over-subscribed list of candidates for the half-back line.
This year the Glenfin man has been released from the confines of the corner and has revelled in his new-found freedom in the half-back line, consistently performing to a high level in the three Ulster championship games to date.
McGlynn was used a corner-back because he was probably the best suited to the job, testimony to the range of skills he has in his armoury.
The corner back position did not restrict him completely as he went on many runs forward, but this year he has a much greater attacking licence and his ability to carry the ball at pace has been one of the new-found strengths of Donegal 2012.
“It was a nice change from last year when I was stationed at corner-back for most of the year. It is something that has worked out well so far, but that’s testament to the rest of the players around me too. You’re always encouraged by Jim and Rory to get forward as much as possible. You just trust with the boys in defence along with you to cover when that happens.”
Like most footballers, he really enjoys the attacking side of football, having played much of underage football further up the pitch with club and county.
“It would be something that I would be well used to from club football and in recent years at U-21 level and minor level. For years there has been a plentiful supply of half-backs and the same again this year and I’m just lucky enough to be pushed out a line. There is plenty of cover in the full-back line so it has worked out well for me.
“For a long time at underage I would have played in the half-forward line and then at club football and minor county level. It’s not new to me,” says Frank.
For someone who is only in his 26th year, McGlynn is fast becoming a veteran of the side with 83 appearances so far and Sunday’s Ulster final will be his 25th championship appearance.
“It is becoming a regular appearance now (these big games). It’s the third Ulster final for me, but it’s the second in two years. It’s something you’re looking forward to and when you’ve done a lot of these things before, it makes it easier when it comes around.
“It hasn’t really been much different this year. The preparation and training has been really much the same as last year. We have got new opposition, which makes for a new challenge and the training might be tailored to suit Down, but apart from that it’s much the same.”
McGlynn was part of the Donegal side which were defeated by Down in their last championship clash in Ballybofey and he knows that Sunday’s game will be a very tough challenge.
“They were a serious team that year (2010) and they went on to reach the All-Ireland final. It’s only two short years ago. Some people say that a lot has changed since but when you look at it, the two fifteens will be quite similar to the two teams that took the field that day in MacCumhaill Park.
“Then when you look at the league game earlier in the year in Newry. They put up a serious challenge and came out on the right side of that result. So we don’t expect anything different on Sunday.
“Any final that Down get to, they seem to come with confidence, no matter who the opposition are and it is something we will be expecting. So it is a matter of us concentrating on our own performance and hopefully that will be good enough on the day.”
The Donegal team that he is now part of is much different to previous teams with each player having to play his part, sometimes far from their starting station.
“Every player needs to be adaptable. When you look at the Tyrone game, young Patrick McBrearty was back tackling in the defence. It’s something you have to deal with and be equipped for,” says Frank, who stresses the need for players to be able to play outside their comfort zone.
“I would be used to it but it may not have been as easy for some players. Jim is getting them to adapt and work for the team. It might not be something they want to do, but something that has to be done.
“There are big changes there. It is something that Jim and Rory has encouraged, for players to challenge themselves and do different things and something that the players have bought into. Each player has grown in confidence and taking on those challenges instead of shying away from them.
“There are more dynamics to our team now than just having a target man and getting ball into him. It’s something we have worked on. Last year we had our defensive shape well adapted, so this year we put the focus on scoring more, which was our downfall in last year’s run. It has worked so far. We are putting up better scores and we are still keeping those defensive traits intact.”
Asked if he felt the side needed to score more goals, he responded by saying that it was more important for players to take the right option.
“It is something, especially in championship games and especially in Ulster, goals are massive scores. It is something we haven’t really talked about, but it is something about making the right decision. It doesn’t have to be a goal, but it’s a matter of keeping calm and taking the right option.
“A point at times against Tyrone was as good as a goal, to stretch it out to three, four-point lead.”
Looking forward to some better summer days, the fleet-footed Glenfin man is hoping for a dry sod on Sunday.
“I would rather the firm ground under my feet. It is nice and to be counting down the games and trying to get as fit as possible and keep yourself as fresh as possible.
“It is also about taking on board all the information that is being talked about at training, that you’re switched on. Any small wee bit of information could be the difference between winning and losing on Sunday.”
There is one other notable difference in the McGlynn household this year, compared to preparing for the Ulster final of 2011. Days before last year’s final, Frank and his wife Diane celebrated the arrival of their newborn son, Harry.
The Ulster final was a week earlier last year and it was a hectic period for the McGlynns.
“My wee boy is sleeping through the night. There are early mornings, but he’s sleeping through the night.
“He was still in hospital last year on Ulster final day but he’s hoping to make it to Clones this year, but we’ll see what happens.”
Getting a picture of Harry in the Anglo Celt has been a target for the McGlynns and Donegal throughout 2012. “Our target from the start of the year was to retain the Anglo Celt.”