Cavan defeat still lingers: Donegal defender Paul Brennan
DONEGAL'S veteran defender Paul Brennan admits that last year’s shock defeat to Cavan in the Ulster final was "hard to take" - but he believes there is no point in dwelling on it as Donegal face arch- rivals Tyrone in the opening NFL clash on Saturday evening.
The Leitrim native does not shirk from reflecting on a dark day for Donegal
“Obviously it was a hard one to take. Every game you lose is.
“At the start of the year, it was one of our goals to retain the Ulster title but we just came up short.
“The best thing we can do is just get the heads back down again. There's no point dwelling on it too much.
“It is what it was. Cavan definitely deserved to win the game. They were just that wee bit more hungrier.
“A week later I was back at it again by myself, keeping myself right for the next year.”
He also admitted that the uncertainty over when the season was going to start has not helped the preparation for this year.
“We took a couple of knock-backs about when we thought we would be back in but it is what it is – that's the life we are living at the minute.
“Of all people, players and teams can deal with setbacks from losing games.
“The restrictions kept going and you just had to deal with it and move on and we don't dwell on stuff too much.”
When asked about the League format, he said: “We do need games and I'm happy to see the games coming.
“It's not for me to argue with it, that's up to Declan, he can do the arguing.
“At some stage we need to play football. It's not ideal but it is what it is.
“As Declan said it is a mini Ulster campaign and that is what we want and as footballers we want to play competitive football.
But he added that he was no fan of all the recent rule changes.
“As far as I’m concerned, they are going over the top.
“They should leave well enough alone. It is not for to get into but as I said we adapt to rule chances but at some stage they are going to leave them well enough alone.
On a more positive note, the return of Gaoth Dobhair trip Ronan MacNiallais, Kieran Gillsepie and Odhran McFadden/Ferry has strengthened Donegal and added to the fierce competition for places.
“It goes without saying with the lads you mentioned and the squad Declan has put together means there is always competition for places.
There are no one in the squad that does not want to play so you are always looking over your shoulder. It is something you will always find at this level.”
But Healy Park will be eerily silent for this big showdown, as Brennan admits that he misses the crowds.
“Initially during the warm-up and when you run out onto the field I would notice the crowd.
“But once the game starts and you are involved in the thick of the action there could be 10,000 or 100,000.
“Once you are in a game situation you are in it.
“But yeah it is a pity.
“I would love to see the crowds back and hopefully they will be back later in the season.
But for now, he is just looking forward to the Tyrone test as he revealed how tough the last few months have really been.
“Of course, there was a different approach from what we would be used to.
“Before the S & Cs would have had everything laid out for you, and all you had to do was get in your car.
“All of a sudden you were forced into doing your own S & C at home, and following the programmes given to you with five kilometres of the house.
“I did see across the board, the mental strength side to it. Nobody was there saying you had to get to this level.
“You had to do it yourself, and when we came back in Declan was fit to see that people were fit to do what was asked of them outside of being whipped at or whatever you want to call it.
“You had to have that mental strength to go and run on your own and get to that level.”
And now let the game begin!