GAA Football

Not losing as important as winning for Donegal against Tyrone says Brennan

Paul Brennan (first left) of Donegal ahead of the Dr McKenna Cup Final against Tyrone. Pic Philip Walsh

WINNING a medal, even in the McKenna Cup, means something to newer faces on the Donegal panel – but not losing mattered even more.

Defender Paul Brennan, in his second season on the squad, spelled out their determination not to be beaten by Tyrone after narrow League losses to Kerry, Galway, and Dublin:

“We said after the last National League game, against Dublin ‘That’s it, no more losing, we really have to kick on from here’. We just set a benchmark for ourselves, no one else, we pushed on and we did get the win…

“Knowing that feeling [of losing late on] the likes of Niall [O’Donnell] and Michael [Murphy] came in and kicked the scores.

“We knew we couldn’t let another one slip, we knew it was time to step up right away. Everyone kinda put up their hand and said they’d take it on.”

Although those subs played their part in taking Donegal to victory, the Tir Chonaill side’s strong start was arguably even more important.

Donegal notched 1-7 inside the opening 15 minutes, including finding the net very quickly after Tyrone had done so, and the Bundoran player explained why they took such a positive approach:

“I suppose with a team like Tyrone, if you stand back and let them come at you then you’re looking for trouble. We wanted to put them on the back foot first and just see what they were made of – that paid off for us.

“They were well-worked goals by both teams but it was good for us to get the response back, go for the jugular again when we saw it was on…

“I thought maybe in the last few games there were periods when we let the teams get on top of us. We were trying to cancel that – when teams have a purple patch we need to kick on ourselves and thankfully we did.”

A first victory in four matches, the first trophy in four seasons, Brennan was not going to downplay the significance of this victory: “It’s great to win anything – from the last time Donegal won Ulster [in 2014] there’s not too many men in there that have medals.

“To get the win is important for Donegal at the minute. Any time you win a medal with Donegal you have to be happy.”

Even the fact that the Red Hands had only two of the same starters from their previous outing against Kildare did not take the shine off the win for him:

“The Tyrone side that was put out, people may say it wasn’t their strongest team, but listen, anyone who started for Tyrone would be on most teams in Ireland. It’s not as if there were two weak teams out and both really went at each other, which made for a good game.

“I suppose both teams got the licence to go at each other and express themselves – made for a good watch at this time of year, I’d say. There are games where you’ll not get the chance to do that, where you just lock up shop and grind out the win.”

His own performance was particularly impressive, given that he had been out ill recently, as he powered forward from half-back for two points from play. Praised for those, he smiled: “Ah now, some days they go wide, some days they go over.

“I picked up a ‘flu’ a couple of weeks ago so that was my first night back – it was good to get a run-out, get the lungs opened up again, and get back into the League next weekend.”

The schedule brings Kildare to Ballyshannon, near to the Leitrim native’s new home of Bundoran, which is handy for him: “There’s not too many days when you have just five minutes down the road to play a National League game.”

That short journey will help after a packed recent schedule for Declan Bonner’s, although Brennan isn’t complaining about their regular run of matches:

“Every footballer, no matter who they are, they want to play games – thankfully games are coming thick and fast.

“It is suiting us, everyone is enjoying it, the atmosphere’s good in training, because players are getting runs and people have something to look forward to at the weekend”.

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