By Frank Craig
Jamie Brennan knows that after a big performance last day out against Fermanagh, he has put himself in a great place to start against Tyrone this weekend.
But he also knows that he has to keep impressing, and there is no time to rest on his laurels.
“It’s all about taking your chance then. There are a lot of young players in there now. It’s changed a good bit. At the start of the year we were all told, ‘you’ve a jersey now, try to keep it for Championship’.
“You see the likes of Stephen McMenamin, Jason McGee, Michael Langan. We are all just trying to hold onto our spots for as long as we can.
“I still feel like I’m settling in. I don’t feel like I’m established. If I can be consistent and play as well as I can I’ll be happy. I’m definitely enjoying it. That winning feeling the last day – you want to taste it again and again.
“Winning Division 2 was a stepping stone. And it’s about carrying that momentum on now.”
With initial hurdles cleared on both sides, the cards have fallen exactly how Donegal had anticipated. But Brennan is adamant neither he nor his teammates were ever taking anything for granted.
He explained: “We knew going into the Fermanagh game it would be a tight affair – especially after last year. They were in their own back yard and trying to get their own back on us.
“You seen some of the upsets that have happened already in Championship. We didn’t want that to be us. And listen, had we not taken Fermanagh as seriously as we did, it definitely could have.
“All focus then could turn to Tyrone. And we’ve had to get our heads around all of that pretty quickly.”
Ace attacker Patrick McBrearty had been playing the best football of his career prior to a cruel ACL tear sustained in last season’s Ulster final. How Donegal missed his input in that previous ‘Super 8’ clash last term.
“It’s great to have him back,” said Brennan on his inside partner. “He’s one of the best in Ireland. You feed off him. He brings a different level. Michael (Murphy) is the exact same. They are top class. I could go on. Ryan McHugh too. You just train and work as hard as you can to get up to that level.”
McBrearty no doubt has the ability to be the difference-maker at the weekend.
But searching for any kind of reasoning for Donegal’s complete capitulation two seasons ago is a much more difficult task.
“The harsh realities of 2017… that was kind of my first real year in,” he said. “The Ulster semi-final didn’t go our way at all. I remember being taken off at half-time.
“They are the small wee things that you don’t forget. We’ve a chance to make up for that now the next day out.
“The level of intensity that day in the first-half was serious. It was hard to get up to that speed. Breaking into the panel, I just wasn’t used to it.”
Brennan’s stock has undoubtedly risen in the last 12 months. And you can bet Mickey Harte and his backroom team are now paying as much attention to his threat as they are to McBrearty’s.
Still, he won’t allow himself to believe any of this when it’s put to him. That would be a dangerous path for his thoughts to drift down.
“Definitely not,” he says when pressed again on whether or not he finally feels like a regular for his county. “Oisin Gallen, everyone knows about. Eoghan McGettigan is flying. He really looks the part.
“Niall O’Donnell is a serious talent. You couldn’t even dream about allowing yourself to feel comfortable. They all want to be in there.”