Donegal's boys become men in the white heat of battle

Paddy McBrearty couldn’t wait to get close enough to scream into Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher’s ear after Sunday’s Ulster final defeat of Fermanagh in Clones.

Patrick McBrearty, left, and Michael Murphy of Donegal celebrate following the Ulster final win over Fermanagh.

The Kilcar forward had had a word with the Killybegs defender earlier in the week and he was eager to remind him of how that conversation went.

“I told you you’d score a goal, didn’t I,” he roared amidst the bedlam. “What did I tell you?”

Gallagher beaming smile was the only reply required.

It was his three-pointer that really burned off Fermanagh on a fiercely hot day in Monaghan at the weekend.

His decision to dart in at the back post was described as a gamble but it was one calculated on the back of a system that rewards such thinking.

It’s everybody’s job to attack and it’s everybody’s job to defend,” Gallagher explained. “Everybody’s running the team. You could see even the fellas coming off the bench really strongly as well.

Gallagher spoke earlier in the summer of the need for the county’s younger generation of players to step up and assume their share of the responsibility from those colleagues who played a part in claiming Ulsters and an All-Ireland earlier this decade.

And he repeated that mantra two days ago.

“The older fellas were dragging us along there for long enough,” he said. There is a sense that this is just the start for this Donegal team under Declan Bonner. Gallagher typifies that.

Prior to this he had lost three Ulster finals, one at U21 and two more at senior. This success will only replenish their appetite, not dull it.

It’s the worst dressing room in the world to be in, a losing dressing room of an Ulster final. I’ve been in three now, one U21 and two senior. It’s all doom and gloom and to see the change in atmosphere, it makes it even more special.

They posted an average of roughly 2-19 across four games in Ulster this year and the firepower available to them consists of an arsenal that few other counties could even begin to contemplate. It bodes well for the Super 8s. McBrearty and Michael Murphy were restricted to just two points from play between them at the weekend but that wasn’t in any way debilitating given 13 players posted scores.

They have burgeoning talent in every line. Paul Brennan was superb in running forward and claiming a pair of points, Jamie Brennan worked hard and smart and Michael Langan, a painfully young and scrawny looking forward, could be a sensation if and when he adds some meat to the bones.

Next up: the Dubs.

“That’ll be enjoyable,” said Gallagher of their opening Super 8s tie. “That’s where you want to be playing, the Dubs in Croke Park, because it means you’re at a good stage and we’ll take that game as it comes.”

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