SPORTS COLUMN

THE SPORTING DIARY: Who will replace Patrick McBrearty on Donegal team?

With Sports Ed Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell

Reporter:

Peter Campbell

THE SPORTING DIARY:  Who will replace Patrick McBrearty on Donegal team?

Sports Editor Peter Campbell

Who will take the place of Patrick McBrearty on Donegal team?

That is the question asked in every conversation I’ve had in the last week as we look forward to taking on the Dubs in Croke Park on Saturday evening.

They are big boots to fill. Indeed, one person said that the two players on the Donegal team at the moment that you cannot do without are McBrearty and Michael Murphy.

It’s not just that McBrearty can score from anywhere. His presence on the field now concentrates the minds of the opposition and at least two defenders are deployed to look after him. He is probably the most improved Donegal footballer over the last couple of years, and he was beginning to really relish games in Croke Park, something that didn’t happen early in his career.

But back to the original question - who will take his place? No doubt Jamie Brennan will be the front line and it would be logical to think that Michael Murphy will spend some time up front. Maybe it will be a case of Murphy and Michael Langan sharing the duties.

There may well be a surprise and it will probably be decided by who is going well in training. Could Darach Jigger O’Connor be in the frame, or will they hold him for Dr. Hyde Park - imagine Jigger taking on Roscommon!

Saturday will be Donegal’s big test for 2018. It will be a great opportunity for the young guns of Declan Bonner’s squad  to pit themselves against the best that’s around.

In recent times Donegal have come up short against Dublin, but they did turn them over in 2014 - the last time that Dublin experienced defeat in the championship.

In those recent encounters in league and championship, there has never been that much between the sides. Have Donegal the physical power to compete?

There are many questions and around 8.30 on Saturday evening Donegal will know just where they stand in the order of things.

But no matter what happens on Sunday, there will still be two big games to come in the Super 8s - a trip to Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon the following weekend before the home game with Tyrone on the August Bank Holiday.

 

My prediction: It will all come down to that August date with Tyrone and it might take score difference to decide who comes second to Dublin in the group.

Brilliant week in Ballyliffin

Was up at 5.30 on Saturday morning for a 6.30 start to the journey to Ballyliffin. It was the same for many others. The trip was well worthwhile as the European Tour brought the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to the most northerly golf club in Ireland, and it proved to be one of the best ever.

The event hosted for the fourth and last time by the Rory McIlroy Foundation just kept giving over the four days after getting off to a great start with the Pro-Am on Wednesday.

The weather certainly helped but even though the wind stayed away, the Glashedy course stood up to the challenge with the final winning tally of -14 very respectable. The finish to the contest with a play-off between eventual winner Russell Knox and New Zealander Ryan Fox was just brilliant drama. To hole a 40 foot putt on successive holes to win the event was just pure magic.

But what was really special about the event was the access for spectators; being able to park within yards of the entrance and then having terrific viewing areas to watch the action.  Ballyliffin would compare with anywhere in the world in this regard.

Unfortunately the Irish players just didn’t sparkle, which was a pity, because they were attracting the bigger galleries.

But you can’t have it every way. Donegal should be proud of Ballyliffin Golf Club and the way they handled such a big event - the biggest ever sporting event to be hosted in the county. Well over 94,000 spectators passed through the gates and yet there seemed to be room for everyone.

For those having a bigger involvement, there was so much space and yet everything was within easy reach. It was a dream location.

Surely it would deserve to have the Irish Open back again at some time in the future.