Paddy McBrearty taking fitness fight ‘day by day’ ahead of Donegal’s Ulster SFC clash with Derry

Kilcar man sustained calf injury in his county’s win over Meath in League clash

Donegal captain Patrick McBrearty roars away from the net to celebrate a goal against of Cork during the National Football League Div 2 match played at Ballybofey on Sunday 28th January 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Donegal captain Patrick McBrearty could be touch and go to be fit for his side's Ulster SFC clash with Derry on April 20 Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

Donegal will be sweating on the fitness of inspirational team captain right up until the 11th hour for their crunch clash with Derry in Celtic Park.

McBrearty had to go off the field in the Alllianz Football League Division Two clash with Meath on March 23 and now he is a race against time to recover from a calf injury for their meeting with the Ulster champions on April 20.

The captain, who made his debut under Jim McGuiness as a 17-year-old in 2011, will be 30 in August as he reflects on an incredible journey.

McGuinness will be keen to have McBrearty leading out his team at Celtic Park as the Kilcar captain has a new lease of life this season, forming a very potent strike force with Oisin Gallen.

When asked if he feels he will be able to line out, McBrearty says he is taking a ‘day on day approach.

“That is the situation with my injury and I am hoping for the best,” he said.

“We have a very good League and winning the League title was a great boost even though we have not yet had everybody but the young lads who have come in have done very well.”

Donegal have already played Derry in the Dr McKenna Cup and “we kept them to 12 points.”

“We were disappointed at the time, and we had a lot of key personnel missing and neither us or Derry will take too much from that match.”

When asked where the main threats will come from Derry, he replied:


“Shane McGuigan is the first name that pops up in your head and they have loads of good defenders as well, but he is right up there with the Cliffords, and he has really pushed on these past few years and the numbers he has put up have been going through the roof.

“So, we have a big job to stop him and they also have Chrissy McKaigue at the back, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers and Conor Doherty, Padraig McGrogan and Ethan Doherty are all flying, Eoin McEvoy, Cormac Murphy, Lachlann Murray to name a few.

Donegal’s Ciaran Thompson and Patrick McBrearty accept the Division Two winners' trophy from Jarlath Burns. Picture Mark Marlow
Donegal’s Ciaran Thompson and Patrick McBrearty accept the Division Two winners' trophy from Jarlath Burns. Picture Mark Marlow

“But this is loads of years of investment in youth that is bearing fruit and they have a really good generation of players there and you hear them talking publicly about winning All-Irelands and that is what they believe.”

Donegal defeated Armagh in a thrilling Division Two final last weekend, a game the preceded the epic clash of Derry and Dublin in the Division One decider at Croke Park. Both games were lauded for the level of entertainment on show and the stunning scores taken.

Having seen the Oak Leafers pip the All-Ireland champions to the Division One silverware, McBrearty is in no doubt about the level Derry are now operating at.

“They are up there with Dublin and Kerry and there is no doubt about that and they are going for three in a row Ulster titles and they have lost two All-Ireland semi-finals and only by a point last year,” he said.

“They are very close.”

But McBrearty does not totally buy the obvious theory that Donegal are coming in as underdogs and could be an unknown quantity as they have not yet had a full squad.

“Both teams know each other well enough, and it will be a ding dong battle but yes I suppose they deserve to be favourites and it is up to us to rise to the occasion.”

Paddy McBrearty first played under Jim McGuinness for Donegal as a 17-year-old in 2011

That is something captain McBrearty has been doing consistently since Jim McGuinness picked him when he was just 17 back in 2011.

And it has been a truly incredible journey in the interim.

“This is my 14th season, and it has absolutely flown by.

“It only seems like a month ago that Jim brought me into training in O’Donnell Park.

“It has been a blast and there have been some unbelievable days and there has been some terrible days too in terms of losing Ulster finals and losing an All-Ireland final.

“Jim coming back in was big and even myself getting injured last season and you only appreciate what you have when you are out and looking on from the side line.

“You are thinking that when you were on the field you were taking things for granted.

“But the body now feels great and I am 30 now and I am 31 in August so hopefully there is a few more years left in the tank but I am really enjoying it and the young lads are giving us a new lease of life.”

He added; “There are lads coming from the U20s and pushing for places and they were only five or six when I started playing for Donegal first.

“They are all good lads with a great attitude.”

Meanwhile, McBrearty has been operating up front with Oisin Gallen who is one of the country’s top forwards.

“Oisin has big aspirations, and he wants to be in the conversations like Shane McGuigan and those boys.

“Oisin is a a great player and he had a fine year last year considering everything we had going on and he pushed that into MacCumhaills as well.

“He is staying injury free, and he is just an unreal talent.’”

And McBrearty is delighted to be still soldiering with his old comrade and club mate Ryan McHugh.

“We have been playing together for a long time and we get sick of seeing each other,” he quipped.

“But it is great to have Ryan back and he too seems to have got a new lease of life and he is flying and he is hitting 30 too and he is in great shape and is pushing all the young lads on.”