Sylvester Maguire: Jamie Brennan and Donegal can make real impression against Roscommon
EVEN as a young boy, there was always something special about Jamie “Messi” Brennan from Realt Na Mara, Bundoran.
Although a small slight lad, he was a boy with magic in his boots and pace to equal that of former Donegal great Seamie Granaghan.
That’s according to ex-Donegal All-Ireland medallist Sylvester Maguire, who coached Brennan at summer camps and remains a big fan of a player who has become even more important to the Tir Chonaill attack following the long-term injury suffered by talismanic forward McBrearty.
Without McBrearty, Declan Bonner’s side were always going to struggle to get the better of Dublin in Saturday’s Super 8 opener at Croke Park, but neither the team nor Brennan disgraced themselves, losing by the same five-point margin that they lost by when the counties met in Division One of the Allianz League in February.
Brennan himself bagged three of Donegal’s 16 points and the whole county will be hoping that it raises his confidence for the win-or-bust trip to Hyde Park to face Roscommon this Saturday evening.
“Jamie came from a big family and his mother used to arrive in with a wheelbarrow load of kids, but Jamie was always something special,’’ says Maguire.
“He has everything you could want – speed, skill, vision and courage – and he is becoming one of our outstanding forwards. He could really shine in Hyde Park on Saturday night.
‘‘He is another Seamie Granaghan. Like all great forwards he has an eye for goal and an eye for a score and that great burst of speed off either foot.
“That was his first Championship match and his pace had Dublin worried, it would worry anyone.
“I think he can make a real impression against Roscommon.’’
Maguire urged caution against the Rossies, even though they lost out heavily against Mickey Harte’s Tyrone at the weekend.
“We would not want to be allowing Roscommon to throw the ball about as they are very good kick-passers,’’ he stressed.
“You need to pressure them and Dublin are the best team in the country at this and if we can put Roscommon under pressure from early on we have a great chance.
“If you are pressing them in their half then they cannot press you in yours.”
Maguire also believes that Donegal could make their physical edge count.
“We do have a physical edge but we are a bit raw with young Michael Langan, Eoghan Ban, Ciaran Thompson, Hugh McFadden and Brennan yet to reach their peak,” he added.
“Any team that wants to win needs to throw caution to the wind, and that does not mean throwing 15 men into attack, but caution now means leaving your two wing-backs in position.
“I would be very disappointed if Donegal do not come away with a win. I believe we have the better players, have a physical edge and have a lot more scorers in our team.”
Even in the event of a defeat, Maguire is adamant that Donegal have already had an exceptionally successful season.
“In January, if anyone had given us an Ulster title we would have taken the arms, head and legs off them.
‘This has already been a great year irrespective of what happens, but Declan Bonner will rightly not be thinking that way.
“He wants to get Donegal to an All-Ireland semi-final and despite our defeat to Dublin I firmly believe we can make it.
“If we lose on Sunday it could make the Tyrone game in Ballybofey a damp squib.”
Maguire added that he doesn’t think that will happen and believes the quality of Donegal players that are there, and Michael Murphy, will see them through.
“Of course he should have been played in closer to the Dublin goals, but he was majestic in a lot of the things he did on Saturday night,’’ reasoned Maguire.
“It was simple, but he was controlling the game at periods and it is an awful pity that we don’t have two of him.
“It’s a pity there weren’t twins of him.
“To win All-Irelands you need about 20 top class players and years ago you might get away with 16 to 17.
“Donegal at present have around 10 or 11 top class players and we have 10 players of equal ability for the four or five remaining positions on the field.
“But they are young enough to get better.”
And none more so than Maguire’s very own protégé – one Jamie “Messi” Brennan.