GAA Football

Eamonn McGee 'devastated' for former team-mate Paddy McBrearty after cruciate injury nightmare

Paddy McBrearty leaves the Clones pitch in the early stages of the second half of last Sunday's Ulster final Picture by Seamus Loughran

THE loss of key forward Paddy McBrearty has robbed Donegal of momentum for an All-Ireland charge says Eamon McGee.

With four wins on-the-trot and the Anglo-Celt Cup in the bag, the Tir Chonaill outfit seemed poised to light up Croke Park this summer, but yesterday’s news that Kilcar forward McBrearty won’t play again after suffering a cruciate ligament injury was a hammer blow.

McGee and McBrearty were team-mates on the Sam Maguire-winning side of 2012 and the Gweedore man admitted that the loss of the in-form forward, who hobbled off three minutes into the second half of last Sunday’s Ulster final against Fermanagh, was “bad, bad news” for the county who begin their Super 8s campaign against Dublin at Croke Park on July 14 or 15.

“I’m personally devastated for him because I saw him grow from the young fella coming into the panel to see him stepping into the big boys’ shoes. It’s tough to take,” said McGee.

“He has been playing the ball of his life.

“He’s an out-and-out leader now alongside [Michael] Murphy even in terms of leading by example at training.

“Paddy is no longer the boy who looked up to [Colm] McFadden and Murphy, he’s Paddy the man and for this to happen is heartbreaking.

“You feel for Paddy on a personal level because of the amount of work he has done and then the secondary thing is football and it’s bad news for Donegal.

“You never know where the momentum from winning Ulster could have taken them and you have to think a lot of that momentum is gone now. But there are a lot of good men there, they’ll be gutted for a day or two but they’ll take stock and go at it 100 per cent again.”

McBrearty had scored 19 points  in the Championship before injury struck. The loss of the supremely talented score-taker and creator leaves a gaping hole in the Donegal forward line, but McGee refused to concede that Donegal’s chances had “gone up in smoke” after his loss.

“I know the type of Murphy and [Declan] Bonner and [Karl] Lacey and what they’ll do is they’ll take stock,” he said.

“This is all part of the process. I know they’ll be devastated for Paddy but they’ll get back on the wagon and say ‘Listen, somebody else is going to slot in’ and they’ll just try and get on with things.

“I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Donegal’s chances have gone up in smoke because, bar Dublin, I think we’d fancy taking out the other two teams in the Super8s and that should be enough to take us to the semi-final.

“Hopefully someone else will find a bit of form. Do they go down the route of putting Michael inside and maybe somebody Odhran [MacNaillais] or Hugh [McFadden] will step up and become the primary ball carrier?

“Does some other young fella come up and say ‘I’ll fill Paddy’s shoes inside here’. You have Jamie Brennan, Darach O’Connor… Someone else has to become the
go-to man now.”

Even with McBrearty fully fit and with the Anglo-Celt Cup captured convincingly, McGee was concerned that too much was expected of Donegal.

“I thought we were in a good place,” he said.

“But I was worried too because pundits were talking about us as potential All-Ireland winners and you saw with Tyrone last year – they won Ulster and then they ran into Dublin and Dublin just rolled them.

“We don’t know where Donegal are in the grand scheme of things until the next few weeks. I would say to the supporters: ‘Don’t be expecting too much’. We won the provincial title, we have a medal in our pockets, but don’t expect Donegal to be
All-Ireland winners straight away. It takes time and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

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