Despite being kept scoreless for almost 18 minutes of Sunday’s Ulster Championship encounter with Fermanagh, the game panned out exactly how most would have expected for Donegal.
Fermanagh defended like dogs in the opening quarter and kudos to them, that’s what they had to do in order to win the match. It worked for them last year when they took down Monaghan with a last minute goal, however, once Donegal found their stride there was only ever going to be one outcome such is the quality of their forward division.
The Tir Conaill support must surely be buoyed by the return of one Patrick McBrearty who made his first competitive appearance for the county since last year’s Ulster final against Fermanagh.
The Kilcar ace chipped in with 0-5 on the day, the final three of which came from open play. It looked as though McBrearty may have been suffering from ring-rust during the opening stages as he kick a couple of aimless pot-shots but once he got going he showed how good he is and more importantly how vital he is for Donegal.
However, it was Jamie Brennan who picked up the man of the match award and rightly so. The Bundoran man was a thorn in Fermanagh’s side all afternoon, kicking 0-4 from play in a very accomplished performance, showing everybody why he’s become one of the most talked about forwards in the game today.
The Bundoran man is our focus on this week’s edition of Spotlight.
As previously stated, Fermanagh defended savagely in the opening stages and for a period looked to have Donegal rattled. However, Brennan was able to settle the nerves after nearly 18 minutes of action when he clipped over their first score of the day.
Donegal are working the ball back and forth across the field trying to breach Fermanagh’s wall of green. Eventually, the pass finds Brennan in space. The Bundoran man is able to step inside and get the shot off just before he is swallowed up.
Donegal are off to the races.
The Tir Conaill men eventually go in at half-time a point up. At 0-5 to 0-4 it’s a scoreline that both teams probably would have been happy with. Maybe Fermanagh less so considering they’d kept a clean sheet for so long.
However, Donegal edged two-in front with the first play of the second half. They gain possession from the throw-in before working the ball forward.
Brennan drifts out to the wing before receiving the pass on the run as he checks back inside.
Brennan takes the ball at pace before shrugging off the Fermanagh challenges and hitting a booming kick from 45-metres out.
Notoriously strong in the third quarter of games, it’s a statement of intent from Declan Bonner’s men.
Brennan’s second score was a booming effort that took all of his power but his third could only be described as a gorgeous kick, reminiscent of a golfer’s delicate chip from rough to green.
The move starts with a Sean Patton kick-out. Eventually, it is worked all the way into the corner of the pitch leaving McBrearty with no option but to recycle out.
Brennan is stood all on his out left-wing unmarked and crying out for the pass.
Upon receiving the pass Brennan hasn’t much time to mount an attack. However, he shows all the instincts of a killer frontman taking a small step inside, before creating enough space to delicately guide the ball over the bar with almost no backlift whatsoever.
Brennan wrapped up a successful afternoon’s football by kicking his fourth score from play in the dying embers of the match.
Again it was a score that Donegal had manufactured from their own full-back line. Brennan this time has remained deep inside the full-forward line and makes his run at just the right moment as Paddy McBrearty solos into the Fermanagh half.
McBrearty offloads to the onrushing Brennan who turns on a sixpence and lines up the shot. However, the Bundoran man realises the space that Fermanagh have now gifted him.
With the freedom of Brewster Park at his mercy, Brennan takes a solo, steadies himself and fires over Donegal’s last score of the game.
In truth, it was hard to see Fermanagh pulling off a repeat of last year’s shock win over Monaghan. Donegal are too strong in the forward division and it showed.
Jamie Brennan was a livewire from start to finish and is rightly picking up all the plaudits. They face a sterner test next day out against Tyrone and it will be interesting to see what role Bonner uses Brennan in. Will he go inside with McBrearty and maybe throw Murphy in at full-forward alongside them?
Imagine the destruction.