Sports Editor Peter Campbell
On Sunday next Patrick McBrearty will be back for Donegal and in a year that he could easily have been involved in Dublin’s ‘Drive For Five’, there is another ‘Drive For Five’ that the Kilcar man can put on his agenda - a fifth Ulster senior championship medal.
The talented sharpshooter has unfinished business with Fermanagh as he had to leave the field injured during last summer’s Ulster championship final and has spent much of the time since then recovering from a cruciate injury.
He returned for his club in early April and it seemed as though he had never been away. It may take another couple of games to get the Kilcar man up to the top level, but having him back in a Donegal jersey is a welcome sight.
McBrearty has plenty of company on the Donegal panel for this ‘Drive For Five’ but I wonder does he ever think about what might have happened if the family had stayed in Dublin, where he spent the early years of his life.
Thankfully, Donegal was his choice and hopefully we will be able to enjoy watching him with his best years still to come.
Because of the Official Secrets Act (GAA style) we won’t be seeing any team line-outs for Sunday until we buy a programme on the day of the game. It’s very unfair on supporters that teams are withheld until half an hour before throw-in, and it doesn’t do the promotion of the games any favour.
For whatever reason some managers feel that keeping teams a secret gains them some advantage. For the most part it only leads to speculation, most of which is fake news.
Whatever teams are selected for Sunday next, there will be no secret about the type of game which we will be witnessing. Rory Gallagher and Fermanagh are hardly going to play an open, expansive game. It will be tight, niggly with every ball contested. It will hardly be one for the purists, but nevertheless it will be intriguing.
Forget about what happened in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny. Imagine what will happen if Donegal are putting on a substitute on Sunday (as happened when Paul Brennan was going on in Letterkenny) and Rory and Ryan McMenamin come down to have some words with him. Sunday’s game will need to have strong officials, on and off the field.
It is a game that could take on a life of its own; a red card; a refereeing decision; a lucky goal. Donegal will have to create their own luck and the best way to do that is to take an early lead and build on it and keep building. It is not the sort of game that you should start keeping ball after you are three or four points up. That lead needs to be extended to six, seven.
While we are not privy to what is happening in the Donegal set-up, we have to take it as we’re told and that means that everyone bar Caolan McGonagle and Oisin Gallen are available for selection.
It would be a big call to play Paul Durcan ahead of Shaun Patton, but it would not be a huge surprise.
I expect Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee and Stephen McMenamin to make up the full-back line with Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Leo McLoone and Dáire Ó Baoill in the half-back line. My midfield is Hugh McFadden and Jason McGee, while my starting front six are Michael Langan, Michael Murphy, Niall O’Donnell, Jamie Brennan, Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh, who would have a free role between the half-back and half-forward line.
Ciaran Thompson would narrowly miss out on a starting place, mainly due to the return of Patrick McBrearty, who will most likely be back on free taking duties from the right hand side.
It is a pity that young Oisin Gallen will most likely not be available. However, it is a strong Donegal team and if there are any chinks in the Donegal defence Eamonn Doherty could again be used as a man-marker, a role he has performed with distinction in recent times.
The local derby nature of the fixture will be a factor and there should be some good banter around the border areas, just as there was in June of last year for the Ulster final.
Again Donegal supporters would be happy to see Fermanagh win, but not against Donegal.
Roll on Sunday and ‘The Donegal Drive For Five’!