Patrick McBrearty, left, celebrates with Kilcar team-mate Mark McHugh after Donegal's win against Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Donegal v Cork

McBrearty staying grounded ahead of Donegal's Rebel test

“If my feet were to leave the ground I’d be bate by my father,” says a young man who will have a big role to play in Sunday’s semi-final versus Cork.

PATRICK MCBREARTY HAS thanked Donegal manager Jim McGuinness for keeping his feet on the ground during his explosion onto the inter-county scene.

Still only 19, the young Kilcar forward already has two Ulster championship medals in his back pocket — more than most of the county’s recent greats — and is getting ready for his second bite at an All-Ireland semi-final when Donegal meet Cork on Sunday in Croke Park.

“It’s been dream stuff and long may it continue,” McBrearty admits but he knows that he owes his manager a huge debt for keeping his youthful excitement in check.

“Jim always said to me be reading about yourself on the Monday morning not in the weeks leading up to games and I took that on board and still have that motto,” he told ahead of Sunday’s clash in Headquarters.

“I’d rather be reading about myself on the Monday morning rather than the Wednesday or Thursday before.

“Jim and Rory [Gallagher, assistant manager] have done an excellent job. They nurtured me into the panel last year and I haven’t looked back and have a lot to thank them two boys for.”

Those quiet words of advice from the management team were effectively an extension of his own upbringing as a child and teenager, he adds.

“Myself, I come from an ordinary traditional family and if my feet were to leave the ground I’d be bate by my father. He has always told me to keep my feet on the ground and to work hard and the football will take care of itself.

“That’s been drilled into me from a young age and it has helped me. We will all keep our feet on the ground and hopefully get over Cork and look forward to an All-Ireland final.”

The disappointment of last year’s semi-final defeat to Dublin is still quite fresh but the pain has been dulled somewhat by Donegal’s powerhouse performances this season, topped by back-to-back provincial titles for the first time in county history.

“Donegal has gone football mad and only for it things would be bleak and dull around the place with the recession. Thankfully we are playing big part in lifting the hearts and souls of the Donegal people and long may it continue.”

But if McBrearty, McGuinness and the rest of the class of 2012 are to cement a permanent place in county folklore, they will need to emulate the giants of 1992 and go all the way to the All-Ireland.

McBrearty wasn’t even born the last time Sam Maguire was hauled back across the county border but throughout his childhood in Kilcar, he was struck by the presence of two club greats with priceless medals: Martin and James McHugh.

“The way them boys of 1992 are still treated around Donegal, it’s unreal,” McBrearty says.

“Personally the two McHughs were in Kilcar and they were our role models in Kilcar. We used to pretend we were them in Kilcar’s pitch and we idolised them and were thinking into the future of being in their shoes some day.

“Thankfully we are not doing too bad and if we continue to work hard and keep our feet on the ground, you don’t know what happens. A wee bit of luck against Cork and anything can happen.”

Conor Deegan: “Two juggernauts are going to crash into each other in Croke Park on Sunday. It’s going to be fascinating”

Kavanagh: Donegal older, wiser and ready for Rebels this time

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