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McBrearty nearing peak

PADDY McBREARTY has no experience of 1992 to recollect. He has no mental pictures of Sam Maguire in the hills of Donegal and the images and sounds of that era are ingrained exactly nowhere in his conscious or subconscious memory.

The reason for that is he was born in 1993. He spent the first few years of his life in Dublin, the heartland of his mother, but once he arrived in Kilcar, his rise as a footballer has been nothing shy of meteoric, frightening even.

Few enough footballers play in front of 82,000 people in an All-Ireland semi-final and then, a week later, are forced by local newspapers to pose for photographs with classmates in front of their secondary school upon the resumption of sixth year.

Before that though, there was his senior debut. A hectic, mad dash between grades and the stuff of schoolboy dreams. Literally.

It was in Clones and McBrearty - then 17 - had just kicked 1-3 for the Donegal minors and Charlie Mulgrew's men had just lost to Antrim when Maxi Curran, a member of Jim McGuinness' senior management team, came sprinting across the pitch.



Unbelievable

"I was taken straight off the field after the minor game and the seniors were in a huddle," he recounts.

"I was taken off the field and there was a big plate of pasta waiting for me. We lost the minor game but it was an unbelievable experience, something that I'll have for the rest of my life.

"I wasn't in the minor dressing room at all. It was all arranged that I was going to the seniors. I was in the panel and I didn't know if I was going to play, but thankfully I did."

And fleeting though it was, he hung tight, made the starting 15 for their next outing against Cavan and proceeded to score 1-3 there as well. A star was born, even if no one in Donegal was remotely surprised.

See, McBrearty's potential has long been spoken of in Donegal and it was a question of when, rather than if, McGuinness would make the call.

It came after Donegal's Division 2 final victory over Laois last year but the manager has shielded his prodigy from the limelight and, in particular, the media until this year.



Luxury

Such is his talent, McBrearty has been afforded the luxury of missing the majority of training sessions over the past two years.

"Patrick has only trained with us about 25 times in the last two years and he has two Ulster medals," Jim McGuinness observed after their provincial final win over Down in June.

"Before the game, myself and Rory Gallagher were just saying that it would be a good book to write - how to win two Ulster championships and train 25 times. He's fresh anyway, I'll give him that!"

"The body took a battering last year," explains McBrearty, now at home alongside Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy in Donegal's inside forward unit (on paper, anyway).

"I was thrown in the deep end straight into championship training, something I wasn't used to. Probably never trained before with the intensity we did.

"I didn't really train from January to June at all with Donegal, just doing a wee bit, going down for a wee run or whatever, but I think I am peaking at the right time now.

"Flat out since June, haven't missed training since June.

"My first session, in my first drill I marked Karl Lacey and I could see there was a massive shock. I got dragged all over the pitch, remember it like it was yesterday. It was an experience at the time but I haven't looked back since. Hopefully I've got their respect now and that's a big thing within the squad."

The Leaving Cert is complete and McBrearty will begin a full-time course in NUI Maynooth, so in that part of his life, at least, he is enjoying normality.

He has already turned down the strong advances of Aussie Rules, and Donegal have Jim McGuinness, and this unexpected run of success, to thank for that.

This time next year, he will turn 20. He will have, at least, two Ulster medals, possibly a Celtic Cross and, without doubt, the Young Footballer of the Year award.

"This is my life, what I have been doing since I was 10 or 11. I feel this is what I'm into," he says, confidently.

"This has always been part of the plan. When I was 14, 15, boys might be out drinking or whatever, but when I was on my first night out and one of my mates said: 'Just take a drink', and I said I had things on my mind.

"I said I wanted to be one of the best footballers in Ireland."

And on that front too, he is steadily on course for a quick arrival.


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