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Rejuvenated McFadden focused on Ulster glory

OF all the changes Jim McGuinness has brought about in Donegal, one of the most significant could yet prove to be the rejuvenation of his brother-in-law Colm McFadden.

After what many saw as a man-of-the-match performance in the NFL Division 2 final, McFadden agreed he was playing his best football for some time and that form has carried through to the summer. He is Donegal's top-scorer in the championship this year with 1-8 to his name.

"Jim has put a lot of confidence and self-belief back in the team," McFadden said.

"He's got us working hard and playing for each other and with the wins we've been enjoying, it's just helped bring everything together."

Donegal return to an Ulster final for the first time since 2006 against Derry in Clones on Sunday. McFadden is one of a handful of survivors from that defeat to Armagh at Croke Park in '06 after which their championship form went out the window. They would win just one Ulster championship game in the next four years.

"It's been mentioned before that we're among the older boys in the team, but time passes so quickly that you don't even realise that you're the older fella," he said.

If he needed a reminder as to how fast things are moving, he only has to look to his captain, Michael Murphy. A few short years ago, McFadden was teaching the Glenswilly star maths in St Eunan's College in Letterkenny.

And Donegal's style has also changed since then. Along with Antrim, they were pilloried for the entertainment on offer when they met in Ballybofey in their championship opener, but McFadden insists that is the way teams approach the modern game.

"I've no option in the matter, you just have to adjust. The way it is now you have corner-backs bombing up the field and kicking points. Corner-forwards then end up going back after them and if you don't, you'll soon find yourself on the bench," he said.

That renewed sense of purpose about Donegal was underlined in their semi-final victory over Tyrone when they recovered from a poor start to snatch it at the death.

Over the years, Donegal could often produce performances laced with either ineptness or a raw brilliance, but a hard-fought win over an experienced side like Tyrone is something the county haven't seen for a quite while.

"We definitely didn't start well against Tyrone. We'll obviously be looking to improve on that, whether it was a wee bit of nerves and probably the fact that Tyrone came at us and played good football early on," he said.

"Hopefully, it will be good for confidence and give us an extra lift. Every game you win, it seems to push you on that wee bit more, so we should take a wee bit of belief from that game."

Irish Independent