Ryan McHugh has provided a positive update on the form of Paddy McBrearty since the return of the forward to the Donegal panel following a lengthy injury.
The 25-year-old sustained a cruciate injury during last year’s Ulster Football Championship final against Fermanagh but returned to action for his club, Kilcar, last month, kicking four points against Glenswilly.
McHugh maintains that McBrearty is doing everything in his power to be the powerhouse for Donegal that he was before the injury.
“He’s doing good, yeah. Doing great since he got back playing. He’s played four matches for the club and back flying. He kicked 11 points one day.
“He’s trying to get that wee bit of match sharpness back for himself. As I touched on earlier, Paddy’s an extremely disciplined person and he does everything to the letter of the law.
“He’s done his rehab extremely well and he’s back and scoring well. Hopefully, he can get back to as good as he was for Donegal in the Championship.”
Prior to the Ulster final, McBrearty was arguably Donegal’s most influential player. They struggled throughout the Super 8s without his scoring ability and failed to earn a place in the All Ireland semi-finals.
Ulster is probably the most competitive provincial championship and Declan Bonner’s side will need the firepower of McBrearty to conquer the competition again, especially given the determination of Tyrone to return to winning ways.
McHugh believes that his Donegal teammate is still one of the best forwards in the country.
“He’s a top, top player. I think before he picked up the injury last year in the Ulster Final he was, if not the best, then in the top three forwards in Ireland the way he was playing at the time.
“Unfortunately, he picked up an injury and, when you look back on the year last year, at the time you’re trying to say to yourself that it’s not that big of a deal and you try to stay on the positive side.
“But looking back on the year as a whole I think it was a huge turning point in Donegal’s year when Paddy picked up that injury. He was playing so well and probably leading the attack and leading it extremely well for us.
“Kicking six, seven, eight points a game which is huge. Looking back now, it was definitely a huge turning point in Donegal’s year.”
One player who will not be returning to the Donegal panel this Odhran MacNiallais who admitted that he had “no real interest in football” at the moment.
The Gweedore player was a close friend of Micheál Roarty who was one of four men who lost their lives in a car crash in the county in January.
McHugh says the panel respect MacNiallais’ decision.
“I’m personally extremely close with Odhran as loads of boys in the Donegal set-up are. You have to respect his decision.
“From a Donegal point of view, we’d love to have Odhran playing for Donegal all the time but you have to respect his decision as a team-mate and as a friend.
“There was a huge tragedy in Falcarragh and Gweedore. Unless you were really involved in it you wouldn’t have realised how much of a tragedy it was.
“Odhran was extremely close to Micheál Roarty, they were best friends, so he’s been going through a lot and you have to accept the decision he has made and hopefully in the near future we’ll have him back.”
Donegal and Cill Chartha footballer Ryan McHugh was speaking at AIB’s launch of the 2019 Senior Football Championship. Entering into their fifth season sponsoring the county championship and now in their 28th year sponsoring the club championships, AIB champion the belief that ‘Club Fuels County’.