GAA Football

I'd love to see Fermanagh win Ulster, but not this year says Donegal star Paul Brennan

Paul Brennan scored two points in a very impressive display against Down in the Ulster semi-final. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

OF COURSE Paul Brennan would like to see Fermanagh win their first Ulster title. But not against Donegal tomorrow.

As Mayo have found out in their annual struggle to land a Sam Maguire, deserves means nothing when the ball gets thrown in for a final. The rest of Ulster, maybe the rest of the country, might be cheering them on but whatever Fermanagh get tomorrow, they'll have to earn it.

Brennan – in his first provincial decider – wants that medal as much as any of the Ernemen.

“I would like to see them do it, but just not on Sunday,” said Brennan, possibly the first commercial diver ever to play inter-county football, with a smile.

Antrim-born and Donegal-raised, Brennan lined out for Leitrim for six years before a club transfer from Melvin Gaels to Bundoran paved the way for a switch at county level.

After spending last season kicking his heels on the bench, the athletic defender scored his first point in the Ulster Championship to get Donegal up-and-running in the semi-final win over Down and he has made the number six jersey his own during the Tir Chonaill men's Ulster blitzkrieg.

Cavan, Derry and the Down have been put to the sword as Donegal racked up 6-58 in one-sided victories.

“We don't base ourselves on what the opposition brings,” said Brennan, deflecting attention away from Donegal's excellent form.

“We try and put a huge focus on what way our game plan was executed, we put a real focus on ourselves, it's ourselves we analyse.

“We've been happy with certain elements of the games but we're not the finished article – far from it – and we're looking to improve going into this Ulster final.”

Donegal are clear favourites to win tomorrow, but so were Monaghan when they met Fermanagh in the semi-final and, to a lesser extent, Armagh at the quarter-final stage.

“They set up well to beat Monaghan,” said Brennan.

“I think Monaghan underestimated them a lot, but fair play to Fermanagh; they set up a system to beat them and they executed it.

“You can't underestimate them. Teams are there for the taking if they don't give you the respect you deserve.”

It must be make a welcome change for Brennan to be in the favourites' camp after his time with Connacht strugglers Leitrim, but Donegal's Championship form has come on the back of relegation from Division One.

Their lack of success in the top flight camouflaged some fluent patches of play from the Tir Chonaill outfit who won plenty of admirers, but not enough points, to avoid the drop.

“We were putting in performances in the League, but we weren't getting over the line,” said Brennan.

“We knew we had loads to work on but there was massive positivity in the camp because there were periods in games that we played good football, but over 70 minutes we slacked off and that's what cost us staying in Division One.

“When we look back – do we deserve to be in Division Two?

“Maybe it (relegation) was the kick in the arse we needed to get us back to winning ways going into this Ulster Championship campaign. We really needed to turn over a new leaf.”

He attributes his breakthrough this year to the influence of Karl Lacey, the former Donegal Allstar wing-back, who has been part of Bonner's backroom team this season.

“Karl is fantastic for Donegal at the minute,” said Brennan.

“He's been there and he's done it all. I was just thinking in the last few weeks how good he has been for all the defenders and his in-depth analysis of all the teams… I've never seen the likes of it before.

“I don't think there are too many men in Donegal who have done what he has.

“He tells me to get ahead of the ball any chance I get.

“I still have my defensive duties to do but as much as possible I have to get up and support the boys up front.”

Away from football, Brennan spends much of his time under water as a diver for Dive and Marine Contractors Ltd.

“We do inspection, welding, repair work…,” he explained.

“In Galway we repaired a bridge that had collapsed under water. We shuttered it up and poured concrete and made it safe - any welding that has to be done in or around water we take on.

“It's very busy, long oul days, but I enjoy it.

“It doesn't really fit well with the football because we tend to work harder in the summer when it's better weather so it's hard to juggle it but thankfully the boss men can see the bigger picture.

“We usually do 12-hour days but it depends on tides and weather – it could change from one week to another.”

From centre half-back, Brennan will have a pivotal role in this Ulster final. He'll have to keep tabs on Fermanagh runners like Declan McCusker, Ryan Jones and Barry Mulrone who'll try to break the Donegal line and take the scores that will allow them to break their Ulster duck.

He'd love to see them do it. But not tomorrow.

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