Donegal star, Paddy McBrearty, has returned to full training, but will not be risked until the beginning of the Ulster Championship, according to his teammate, Stephen McMenamin.
The 25-year-old hasn’t featured since their Ulster final clash with Fermanagh last year during which he suffered an ACL injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season.
His absence had an influence on Donegal’s performances in the Supers 8s competition but his return could have just as much of an impact as Declan Bonner’s side look to claim back-to-back Ulster titles.
Donegal defender, McMenamin, revealed that McBrearty is targeting their first-round clash with Fermanagh as his return date.
“Paddy has been back running and back training, I’d say Paddy’s plan is to be back for their championship first round against Fermanagh. Paddy knows himself that if he’s not right, he won’t be risking it.
“He will be a massive addition to the Donegal team whenever we get him back.”
Donegal find themselves in the Allianz League Division 2 final this weekend against Meath but the game comes far too early for McBrearty who is keen to “pace himself”, according to McMenamin.
“Last week and this week he’s easing himself in, he’s not going to go full tear at anything. I’d say he’s going to step into drills, step out of drills, he’s going to pace himself, he’s not going to rush into anything.”
The Kilcar forward is considered one of the best footballers in the country presently but McMenamin insists that he will have to fight for his place in the Donegal starting team, given the calibre of performances of late.
“It’s another place up for grabs. The forwards at the minute will be looking over their shoulders seeing Paddy back training. Paddy is going to be coming back thinking he’ll need to earn his spot. The training [sessions] have been getting better and better.”
That strength in depth is one reason why McMenamin believes Donegal are fully capable of lifting the Sam Maguire Cup this summer. While he admits that the Ulster Championship will be a difficult task, the Red Hughs’ man insists that an All Ireland title is the target for Donegal in 2019.
“Ulster is not going to be easy. You have to be performing at the same level as you’re going to be performing on All Ireland and the Super 8s so you need to be at an extreme level to beat the likes of Tyrone because they’re always performing well.
“Our main aim is to get to an All Ireland final, win an All Ireland but Ulster will be at the top of our list for the next six to eight weeks.
“At the moment, yes I do [think Donegal can win the All Ireland this year]. The strength and depth we have in the team, no man’s place in the team is secure. Compared to other years where you sort of knew the team but this year you’re looking over your shoulder and nobody is safe at the minute.
“There could be 10 or 11 backs there at the minute who will feel like they should be starting so it’s not easy.”