PATRICK MCBREARTY TURNS 23 today and for many his coming of age moment came last Saturday at Croke Park.
In scoring 0-11 against Cork in a Round 4B qualifier, the Kilcar forward scored more than any other Donegal player had ever managed in a single championship outing at GAA HQ.[adrotate group=”53″]
The previous record had been Manus Boyle’s 0-9 in Donegal’s first ever capture of Sam Maguire, the 0-18 to 0-14 victory over Dublin in the 1992 All-Ireland final, while Tony Boyle had bagged 1-8 in the National League semi-final against Kildare in 1998.
Both Boyles and Donegal were certainly outsiders that particular September afternoon some 24 years ago, but they produced one of their most spellbinding performances ever to land a famous win.
Donegal’s contemporaries take on Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final on Saturday and are at similarly long odds on the bookmakers’ blackboards, although in McBrearty and Michael Murphy they do possess a potent inside forward line, should the skipper be employed close to goal.[adrotate group=”38″]
“Patrick has been doing it now for a right long time,” Murphy said of his sidekick. “It was a phenomenal performance. I am training with him week in, week out. He has always had it in his locker to do it, with the power and the skill that he has.
“I would not swap him for the world what he can do with a football. He was just extremely sharp last Saturday night but he has been doing that in training. He is just one of those players who you really respect and the amount of football he has under his belt at such a young age.”
Here’s McBrearty’s 0-11 haul from last Saturday against Cork …
Like Murphy, a precautious McBrearty debuted for Donegal’s seniors in the deep end. In 2007, after Donegal had won the National Football League Division 1 and then upset an Armagh side who were chasing four in a row in Ulster, Brian McIver’s team capitulated and were hammered 2-15 to 1-7 in the provincial semi-final by Tyrone.
Murphy had watched those contests from the terraces. By the time the qualifiers rolled in, however, McIver had taken a chance on the Glenswilly teen at Carrick-on-Shannon against Leitrim. Murphy returned the favour almost instantaneously with a first half goal.[adrotate group=”68″]
Four years later, by then still only 21, Murphy was Donegal captain in Jim McGuinness’s first outing in Ulster. Donegal hadn’t won once in the province since that 1-9 to 1-8 victory over Armagh in 2007.
A 1-10 to 0-7 victory in drab conditions at Ballybofey wasn’t the greatest spectacle, although McGuinness was content to get the show on the road. That afternoon he plucked McBrearty – who had played the minor game beforehand – from the bench for his first senior appearance.
In Donegal’s next outing, at Breffni Park in Cavan for the Ulster quarter-final just four weeks later, McBrearty replaced a Kilcar clubmate and someone whom he’d looked up to for years, Michael Hegarty, in the starting XV.[adrotate group=”76″]
After just 21 minutes, McBrearty caught a ball in his chest from another Kilcar player, Mark McHugh, and turned to shoot past James Reilly in the Cavan goal to set Donegal on their way to a 2-16 to 1-8 win.
Since then, McBrearty has played in six successive Ulster finals and featured in two All-Irelands, winning in 2012 and then coming off the bench in 2014 as Kerry took Sam Maguire on a 2-9 to 0-12 scoreline.
Last weekend was his last appearance for Donegal as a 22-year-old and, quite remarkably, it was his 75thinter-county appearance and 35th successive outing in the championship since McGuinness gave him the nod against Antrim in 2011.[adrotate group=”37″]
Only Paddy McGrath – who played in the defeats to Down and Armagh in 2010 – has a longer streak going, while Anthony Thompson and Martin McElhinney join McBrearty on 35.
McBrearty played for St James’ Gaels and lived in Dublin – where his mother Carol is from – until he was 10. Now, on Sunday he will be gunning for Jim Gavin’s team in the green and gold of Donegal.[adrotate group=”45″]
“His personality will leave Patrick in good stead,” Murphy added. “The whole lot of us will know ourselves that to give him the opportunity and to give the whole lot of us the opportunity to put our best foot forward.
“Aye, confidence for team and confidence for the player, it is huge. Having that under the belt and knowing that you can do it on the big stage in Croke Park is always a great boost. He is a very easy-going lad who loves playing football and with those characteristics and that personality, it will not take a flinch out of Patrick.”[adrotate group=”74″] Tags: