PADDY McBREARTY has relived the silent horror that was the Donegal dressing-room after this year's All-Ireland final defeat by Kerry.
For McBrearty, last September was the ultimate double-whammy: there was the personal frustration of being an impact sub but far worse was the collective trauma of losing.
Despite his own best efforts, kicking two points off the bench, the gifted attacker was left to endure the most painful defeat in his four years as a Donegal senior. "I've never experienced a silence like it, for a prolonged period," he recounted.
"There must have been 15 or 20 minutes where nobody said anything. It was probably the biggest disappointment of all our careers - it's not where you want to be."
Since then, Jim McGuinness has stepped down after four hugely eventful and mostly successful seasons, to be replaced by his erstwhile right-hand man, Rory Gallagher.
Gallagher was in charge of McBrearty's home club, Kilcar, this year and the 21-year-old forward is looking forward to renewing the relationship at county level.
Moreover, he's ready to embrace the challenge of winning back his starting place. "I don't think anyone wants the title of a super-sub," admitted McBrearty, fresh from scoring the opening goal for the 2014 GAA/GPA All Stars during their defeat by last year's All Stars in Boston on Saturday.
"The ambition's definitely there to start. I started the whole way through, since I was 17, until probably this year. The Ulster final (against Monaghan) was the first time I was ever dropped, so it was a big transition for me."
McBrearty lost his place after being taken off during Donegal's first two Ulster outings, against Derry and Antrim. He would start just one of their last four SFC outings - against Armagh, when he landed the winning point. Otherwise, he had to settle for scoring cameos against Monaghan, Dublin and Kerry.
"I had a groin operation, around December time, and I wasn't really back until February and I wasn't starting for Donegal during the majority of the league," he explained.
"I was coming on and kicking a few points a game; maybe he (McGuinness) thought then that it was a good thing to do.
"The first two games didn't go my way; I don't want to be making excuses for it. The Ulster final was a big turning point in my season."
McBrearty "didn't actually think" Gallagher would go for the managerial vacancy and is delighted to have been proven wrong. He is now hoping that his old club boss can help take his game to a higher level.
"The ambition in any footballer is probably to be the best player on any team you can be," he reflected.
"But I'll probably have to bide my time. I was going in there (in 2011) at a time when Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy were probably the two predominant forwards in Ulster. I was kind of the wee sideshow over in the other corner. So it's just about patience and waiting for your time to come. I was happy to do that; we were winning games."
Playing in such vaunted company, however, may have limited his own opportunities. "You'd be the third option," explained McBrearty, a prolific scorer in Donegal club football.
"A boy looks up to see Michael; if he's not on they look to see is Colm on. If Colm's not on, I'm on. So I'm the last resort!
"I go out for my club, I would kick 10 points and then come back for Donegal, score nothing, and they'd say 'Why is he doing it for the club?' ... it is frustrating."