IN the car park of Brewster Park in March 2011, it was the sort of display from Patrick McBrearty that Rory Gallagher had in mind.
On Saturday evening, McBrearty turned water to wine at Croke Park as Donegal overcame Cork to reach a sixth successive All-Ireland quarter-final.
A stunning eleven points, six of them from play, capped a five-star display by the 22 year-old. One of his scores was landed off his right boot. It was that sort of night for the Kilcar man.
Remarkably for a man so young, this was McBrearty’s 75th Donegal appearance and his 35th in Championship football.
“I didn’t do anything different to what I’d normally do,” he modestly said afterwards.
“I made the same runs and did the same things. Nothing changed.
“This group of players has been on an unbelievable journey for the last six or seven years. The character really showed today.
“I’m just happy to be into the next round to be honest, back into a quarter-final again.”[adrotate group=”70″]
His eleven points is the highest total by a Donegal player at Croke Park, surpassing Manus Boyle’s nine-point haul from the 1992 All-Ireland final.
McBrearty was just 17 when he played for the Donegal Under-21s against Cavan in the Ulster Under-21 Championship in 2011.
Gallagher was then the assistant manager to Jim McGuinness. They knew what they were witnessing in McBrearty, who’d been long since earmarked for a senior breakthrough.
In Gallagher – who knows McBrearty better than most having also worked with him at club level in Kilcar – had a word as they parted into the night at Brewster.
‘It’s a pity you’re so young, you could play for the seniors,’ Gallagher told the young forward that night in Enniskillen.
The Donegal seniors and under-21s trained together in those days and, after Donegal defeated Laois in the Division 2 final, McBrearty got the call from McGuinness.
Since being handed a Championship debut against Antrim, when he replaced one of his idols, Michael Hegarty, McBrearty has made a place his own, playing in six Ulster finals and two All-Ireland finals, although being left out of the starting XV for the 2012 All-Ireland against Kerry stung.
Now, McBrearty – once the target of AFL scouts – is aiming to keep Donegal on the road, after getting over their Ulster final loss to Tyrone.[adrotate group=”53”]
He said: “Two weeks was good time to get after the Ulster final.
“We had a rough 13 or 14 days since that Ulster final defeat to Tyrone. We’d asked ourselves some questions and we’re just happy to get the win and get that momentum back.
“We went back to training after the Ulster final and we were either going to let it slip or push on and some of the older boys in the squad really pushed us on and set ourselves up for this.
“We were probably disappointed with some elements of our own play, that we didn’t perform 100 per cent. We didn’t play to the best of our ability.
“But, I think the character was great today and we got back level and pushed on from there.”[adrotate group=”37″] Tags: