Only a game?- I’d love it if we beat them... I’d love it...

�/Presseye.com - 29th January 2010.  Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland - Celtic Park, Derry, Barrett Sports Lightening Dr. McKenna Cup 2011 semi final. Derry manager John Brennan.'Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com
�/Presseye.com - 29th January 2010. Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland - Celtic Park, Derry, Barrett Sports Lightening Dr. McKenna Cup 2011 semi final. Derry manager John Brennan.'Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

The indigenous people of Donegal are just so smug.

After spending last Sunday morning conquering Mount Errigal I returned home feeling that I had accomplished something. My state of contentment was short-lived as shortly after setting foot back in the good ole county Derry two very bad things happened; Eoin Bradley got injured and I received a poorly written text from the friend who happens to be from Donegal.

Bradley was training with the rest of the Derry panel in Ballinascreen when disaster struck. It was one of the final training sessions ahead of today’s Ulster Final with Donegal and a few days later the true extent of the injury was confirmed. Bradley had torn left knee cruciate ligaments and will not feature for either Derry or Glenullin for the rest of 2011 - I was devastated.

Derry haven’t won an Ulster title since 1998 so you can imagine how excited I was. When I heard that ‘Skinner’ had suffered suspected cruciate ligament damage my heart sank.

I sent the friend who happens to be from Donegal a text to let him know about Bradley; his reply was everything you’d expect from a Donegal man, smug, arrogant and awfully presumptuous.

It read: “Forget Errigal... You have a bigger Donegal mountain to climb next Sunday!”

I was struggling to come to terms with the fact that Derry would be missing one of their most talented players and the friend who happens to be from Donegal showed no concern for how anxious I was feeling. I remember feeling a bit like Kevin Keegan did during the 1995/96 season. The phrase ‘I’d love it if we beat them,,, I’d love it’, sprung to mind.

I came into contact with various people from Donegal over the coming days. “Youse’ll be lost weyout Bradley,” offered one. “Big Michael Murphy’s going to run riot,” said another. Things were not looking good.

Donegal have impressed this year. The way in which they implement the blanket defence would be enough to drown out even the most able of full forward lines however, even without the Talismanic Bradley brothers I still think Derry can do it.

Derry boss John Brennan evokes comparisons with Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony D’Amato in ‘Any Given Sunday’. If anyone can whip the Derry team into a sense of self-belief that they can do it without Eoin and Paddy Bradley then Brennan can.

When you interview Brennan it’s hard not to feel inspired. He appears a man who refuses to dwell on sentiment and opts to deal with the facts. In essence Brennan’s a man who likes to keep things simple.

When asked at a recent press conference about the new and innovative ways inter-county teams are being managed he offered an anecdote that had every journalist in Owenbeg cackle with laughter.

Brennan recalled the opening of the new pitch at Ballinascreen, or something like that. The first match on the new pitch was between Derry and Sligo. Brennan walked out on to the pitch before throw-in and saw several black boxes on the sidelines. The were devices being used by the Sligo team to monitor heart rates during the game. Brennan thought it was equipment for a barbeque to mark the opening of the new pitch.

It’s for this type of thinking that I think Donegal should be more afraid of Derry than the Oak Leafs should be of them today. Brennan’s ability to see things as they are is equally important than the ability of the players in the panel. If there’s a decision to be made then Brennan’s your man.

I’ve tried in earnest all week to tell the friends who happen to be from Donegal that Derry are much more than a one man team. Yes, both Eoin and Paddy Bradley but it wouldn’t surprise me if Brennan sends XV out on to St. Tiernach’s Park in Clones today and they beat Donegal.

The bookies see Derry as underdogs but perhaps that’s a good sign. Most of the pundits at the Derry v Armagh semi-final said that the Oak Leafers had no chance of reaching the final and look what happened.

I read earlier this week that Brennan likes nothing more than to relax with a glass of red wine and listen to bit of Bob Dylan. If that’s the case then Donegal are in bother because Jim McGuinness looks more like a Daniel O’Donnell and Lambrusco kind of guy! Doire Abu...