Patton makes most of switch to provide Donegal launchpad
Soccer has always been Shaun Patton's first love, but after tasting Ulster success for the second consecutive year with Donegal his head has turned completely.
The Letterkenny man's kick-outs have brought an added dimension to Donegal's game and their effectiveness was very much in evidence in Sunday's Ulster final when he launched numerous attacks, with deliveries over the top, that ended with scores and opportunities for his team-mates.
His performance was reminiscent of Paul Durcan at his peak, the 2012 All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper, ironically, now providing back-up to the 22-year-old.
It didn't take him long to adjust to a game he hadn't played for three years as he concentrated on a League of Ireland career that ended with Sligo Rovers in late 2017. By then he was deputising for Michael Schlingermann who has since linked up with Mayo.
But when the call came from Declan Bonner he was delighted to accept and hasn't looked back since, a second Ulster SFC medal backing up his judgement.
"It was obviously a tough decision to make, but it was a decision I made with no regrets," he reflected. "It kind of became an easy decision when I saw how fickle life was in the League of Ireland. You come into this set-up and I am telling you, it's amazing.
"But Gaelic football has always been in my life. If you are from Donegal and you don't follow it, there's not a lot of things left for you. The professionalism of the whole game is crazy, it's crazy and yet it's fantastic to see. To see how the boys are so inspired, delighted to play for their county, their colours, it is just phenomenal.
Most of Patton's kick-outs found their targets apart from one near the end that led to a Cavan goal, but the game was effectively over by then.
Meanwhile, Patrick McBrearty spoke of the contrasting emotions he felt from last year's provincial decider against Fermanagh after he limped out of Clones, knowing that a cruciate ligament tear was likely to be confirmed in the days ahead.
"Just two completely different days," he reflected. "I knew leaving here last year I had a long road ahead of me and to put in the performance (against Cavan) and for some of us to win our fifth Ulster title, it means a lot and means a lot to myself personally."
McBrearty won't be 26 until August, but with that fifth Ulster medal secured, he is enjoying the impact of a second wave of Donegal players that has brought such a fruitful end to the decade.
"I have been on the record saying that the young players coming through Donegal are probably the best group of players to ever come through. It's all about keeping them grounded, keeping them motivated, they can have great careers in a Donegal jersey."
Physically, he detects a big difference in their younger players. "If you look at Jamie Brennan, I saw a photo of him there last year in the programme against Cavan, he's a completely different player, Stephen McMenamin and Eoghan Bán Gallagher, too. Credit has to be given to the two strength and conditioning guys - Paul Fisher and Aaron Kyles."
McBrearty now gets a chance to play in the 'Super 8s' competition, having missed out last year, and is particularly energised by the prospect of a Croke Park game against Kerry on the second weekend of the round robin format on July 13/14.
Donegal will also have Meath and Galway in their group - or the teams that beat them - in a round four qualifier.
"I'm looking forward to it, personally. I didn't like sitting in silence last year. Getting back to Croke Park is the big one for me. Whenever we play in Ballybofey in three weeks' time and then getting back into Croke Park, I can't wait for it."