Donegal’s youngest player Patrick McBrearty is learning all the time but has been ready to put his natural game to one side to play his part in the new-look Donegal.
McBrearty was always used to being on the ball, but up until this year, most of his play for club, school or county was getting ball, driving at the opposition and getting the scores.
Nowadays, the Kilcar starlet can be seen as a half-back and playing a sort of centre-forward role, spraying passes anywhere from the half-back to the half-forward line.
“It is a big change from playing with Kilcar when I was the main attacker on the team, the main scorer. But I’m just happy to be in the team, anything I can do for the team I’m happy to do it. I’m just happy to be in the field of play at the minute.”
Of his new role he says: “I suppose after the Kildare game last year I was very mad with myself and I suppose the Glenswilly game last year in Ballybofey. I went home and looked at all the videos of the Donegal games last year and there were a few wee things I wasn’t happy with in my game. I was too greedy, trying to establish myself in the team too much. Jim settled me down this year and said do your bit for the team, work hard and the rest will take care of itself.
“So that’s what I’m focussing on. So thankfully, I’m far happier this year than I was last year with my own performances. If I can got a good 70 minutes under my belt the next day, I’ll be very happy, and most importantly to win.
Just turned 19 on the day of the Kerry game, McBrearty is suely the most decorated player of his age ever to represent Donegal. And judging by his comments at the recent press night, he is not ready to rest on his laurels.
“To be honest, I’ve been told at home, don’t be satisfied with what you’ve got. There’s a lot of medals I don’t have, including a Donegal championship, so I have a long way to go to be totally satisfied.
“If I can get to the end of my career and can say I’m totally satisfied with what I’ve done and look back and say I’m a happy man, it’s something I can take to the grave with me,” said Patrick, who says there is plenty of banter at Kilcar training now that he has two Ulstr medals and the likes of Michael Hegarty has only one.
“He only had the National League title, whatever year that was, over me, but I have two Ulster medals over him now. So there’s a lot of banter at training. I think he was in the panel for 11 years and I’m only in my second year and I have two Ulster medals. But you know, I don’t take that for granted. It is all the luck of the draw and as I said, I’m honoured to be part of this squad. We’re just focussing on Cork and taking it from there.”
Patrick feels that having played his first National League game this year has also helped. “Definitely. The few games without Michael (Murphy) and Colm (McFadden) really helped me. I was lining out at full-forward for Donegal for a couple of games, something I wasn’t expecting at all, being the focal point of the attack. I probably didn’t notice it at the time but it has really helped me with my play. Even when Colm and Michael are playing now, I’m an outlet or a ball winner and can lay the ball off to them boys. I’m really happy with the role I’m playing, happy to be in the team and anything that comes my way, I’ll help the team in any way I can.
“They are the two main men, but there are other players there too who are maybe as good as them. You can’t say that Colm and Michael are away of everybody else. There are six forwards there who would many county team in the country. Working without them only helped the team and you can see that now at training, there’s places up for graps which can only help the team in future,” he said.
Earlier in the championship campaign, Patrick’s training was restricted because his Leaving Cert studies. “At the start of the year, I wanted to establish myself in the team, but I was restricted because of the Leaving Cert. But thankfully, I was really shocked to get a starting place against Derry. It was really helter skelter ever since and we haven’t looked back since.”
Three years ago when the sides met, then only 15 years, Patrick was at the game as a supporter. “I was travelling with Mark McHugh that day and it’s funny looking back now with both of us playing for Donegal. As a supporter that day it was a big downer, a long way back on the bus. It must have been terrible for the players to give that kind of performance. But we have come a long way since that.”
Everything has been going well for Patrick this year: “It has been an outstanding year. It all started with the Ulster Vocational School win earlier on in the year with Donegal and a win on Sunday would top things off nicely with a four week run in to an All-Ireland final,” said McBrearty.