Six years ago, Jim McGuinness handed Patrick McBrearty his senior debut – and the former Donegal boss believes McBrearty and Michael Murphy are key to bringing silverware to Tir Chonaill this year.
McGuinness kept his move on McBrearty, then still a minor, under wraps, but the Kilcar youngster swapped jerseys immediate after the minor game against Antrim in Ballybofey and came on as a substitute for the senior game. McBrearty was still at school in Coláiste na Carraige, but didn’t take long to establish himself as a permanent fixture in the Donegal forward line.
Donegal have been in the last six Ulster finals and start out on the provincial road on Sunday when they take on Antrim in Ballybofey.
Donegal have lost three of the last four finals, though, but with Murphy and McBrearty in town, McGuinness believes they can win the Anglo Celt in July.
McGuinness will be continuing his work with Sky Sports this year and he has tipped them to make a mark again.
“What we have that a lot of other teams don’t have is we’ve marquee forwards”, McGuinness said.
“Monaghan are seasoned campaigners and have marquee forwards. Donegal have marquee forwards. Tyrone not so much, but every single one of their players are very, very talented, so the collective is very strong.
“But for me the marquee forwards are the players that decide championship games. Dublin have them, Kerry have them, Donegal have them, Tyrone have had them previously when they were winning All-Irelands, the Peter Canavans and the Stephen O’Neills, these players play a big part in the championship.
“The players that rise above their peers and that’s what every manager wants – one or two of them in their squad.
“They have got some really good young talent coming through as well but I just don’t think Tyrone have that marquee forward that can take them through.
“We’ve got two in Donegal and that’s why I think Donegal can win Ulster.
“I believe they have enough senior players like Frank McGlynn and Karl Lacey knocking about, so I think the experience and youth that’s coming through, and the marquee forwards, give Donegal a good chance.”