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McBrearty finally given a licence to thrill

Patrick McBrearty in action against Down last week.

Patrick McBrearty’s form to date this campaign has been simply sensational.

But the Donegal sharpshooter insists that it isn’t the result of any major adjustments on his part. He hasn’t bulked up over the winter and he hasn’t made radical changes to his diet. No, the player puts his exceptional showings down to one thing – Donegal are simply showing more ambition in their approach.

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Declan Bonner is encouraging his side to be adventurous and the Ulster finalists have really caught the eye en route to next weekend’s provincial decider. In their three championship outings to date they’ve shot a stunning 6-58.

When pressed on his own exploits up top, McBrearty admits not much has changed for him. What has altered however is that Donegal are much more direct.

“Nothing really,” he said when quizzed on the secret to his match-winning displays. “I’m still making the same runs I’ve always done. The ball is just coming in now. This year we’ve placed a lot more emphasis on attack. You still have to bust a gut. You know sides will pack it out and play a sweeper.

“But you know that going into certain games and you prepare accordingly. We’re really enjoying our football. We’ve freshened things up over the winter. This year we’ve started to attack.”

On last weekend’s hammering of Down, the Kilcar man felt that Donegal’s powerful opening – when they posted 1-8 on the bounce – completely overwhelmed the Mourne men and they quickly threw in the towel.

He explained: “I think the start we made really set the tone for us. The intensity we opened with followed through for the entire game and that was really pleasing for us. We’d a lot of energy.

“It was something different with Michael (Murphy) coming back in there too. He was out and in. We’d a great range of scores. We’d men coming from deep like Caolan (Ward) and Paul Brennan) getting scores. With packed defences that’s what you need – men getting ahead of the ball.”

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Donegal are back in the Ulster decider, their seventh final appearance in eight seasons. After last year’s disastrous championship capitulation against Tyrone, they’re determined to land what would be a first Anglo Celt since 2014.

“We’re as hungry as we’ve ever been,” said three-time winner McBrearty. “Go through the starting XV there and there aren’t many that actually have played in an Ulster final. For the rest of us… we’ve been on the back end of a couple of Ulster final defeats so we’re determined to get back there and make amends.”

One man that will be pivotal against well-drilled Fermanagh will be ‘keeper Shaun Patton. McBrearty is a big fan.

Shaun Patton. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

He continued: “Shaun has been a massive edition for us. I think we let him down late on against Down with the goal. He deserved a clean sheet. He made a brilliant save and his distribution was excellent. But we all have to hold our hands up to that late concession.

“Down got in far too easy. We should apologise to him for that. He’s been a breath of fresh air since he’s come in. Shaun really sets the tempo for us out the park.”

When asked about Rory Gallagher’s men’s strengths and the manner in which the Erne men dismantled Ulster favourites, Monaghan; McBrearty wasn’t very forthcoming. Indeed, he said he was yet to take that clash in.

“I haven’t even watched it yet to be honest,” he revealed. “I didn’t see the Fermanagh/Monaghan game. We’ll have a closer look at it next week I’m sure. But we know what’s coming down the line.”

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