Thursday 14 November 2019

'I want people to talk about me in 50 years' -- Paddy McBrearty

He's just 19, but already the youngest of the 30 starting participants in Sunday's All-Ireland football final has his sights set on creating a legacy.

"I want to see myself on the walls," Donegal forward Paddy McBrearty openly admits. "(To have) people talk about me in 50 or 60 years' time."

The only Donegal player who wasn't born when the county last won an All-Ireland title 20 years ago, McBrearty has already sacrificed potential careers in two professional sports to be where he is now. That's the power of Jim McGuinness' revolution.

In the wake of the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Kerry, he confirmed that the AFL was off the agenda after strong interest from at least one club. And before any association with the Donegal senior team, soccer had also fallen by the wayside.

He was a Celtic triallist and Irish youth international in his mid-teens and lined out for the same Killybegs club that launched the career of Seamus Coleman.


"I've fond memories of my soccer days. Myself and Carl McHugh played for Ireland together and we trialled at Celtic together. Carl has gone on to pursue a career at Bradford. I made a decision at the time that my education was more important than soccer, and I was called into the Donegal minors at the time."

The drive and determination to be a Donegal Gaelic footballer has alway been there for McBrearty, and peer pressure was routinely resisted.

"This is exactly where I want to be. I'd rather be doing this here (playing with Donegal) than going for a night out to a pub or a nightclub," says McBrearty.

"This has always been part of the plan. When I was 14 or 15, boys might be out drinking or whatever; when I was on my first night out, one of my mates said, 'Just take a drink'. I said I had things on my mind. I wanted to be one of the best footballers in Ireland, I said that at the time. Hopefully I am on that track."

It takes a special talent to play minor and senior football in the same year, but it takes something really special to play it on the same day, and McBrearty has that near-unique distinction.

When McGuinness sent him in for the latter stages of their Ulster preliminary-round fixture against Antrim in May 2011, the then 17-year-old had already featured for the minor team in the curtain-raiser.

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

"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."

He trained with the seniors after that and found it gruelling.

"The body took a battering last year. I was thrown in at the deep end, straight into championship training, something I wasn't used to," he says.

Aware of that and his Leaving Cert studies, McGuinness sent him on a different path earlier this year. "I didn't really train from January to June at all with Donegal, just doing a wee bit, going down for a run or whatever. But I think I am peaking at the right time now," says McBrearty.

"You know what you are coming up against now and the fitter you are, the better chance you have of surviving out in Croke Park. You can't not train and play in Croke Park. The two don't mix."

Irish Independent

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