McBrearty's loss 'a huge blow' to ambush hopes
Paddy McBrearty will sit out Donegal's Allianz League collision with Dublin this Sunday - and that could be a setback too far for a panel already adjusting to life without a raft of All-Ireland veterans.
"That's a huge, huge blow," admits former Donegal forward turned pundit Brendan Devenney.
"You need Michael (Murphy) out the pitch to set up plays, and I know everybody wants to see him inside but we just don't have that luxury at the minute .... we need his power and leadership and link-play."
Hence the even greater need for McBrearty's prolific presence inside, but Donegal boss Rory Gallagher has said he won't resume training until next week because of a groin strain.
Given the off-season exodus of players who scaled the summit in 2012, followed by this week's latest (injury-enforced) retirement of midfield totem Neil Gallagher, no one was expecting Donegal to cook up an early-season storm.
This league is all about transition, reflected in their form graph over the first two rounds - a three-point home defeat to Kerry, having trailed at one stage by ten, and a roller-coaster victory in Roscommon.
Now for the Dubs.
"It's a great opportunity to play against the best team in Ireland, one that will bring a lot of hype and a big game to Ballybofey," says Devenney.
"Nobody is expecting them to win the match, so if they can hang in there and give a good account of themselves, certainly put up a better defensive display than they did against a rampant Kerry forward line ... that's the big test as we develop this new team."
Harking back to their valiant finish against Kerry, he adds: "They had plenty of appetite and spirit for it; they never gave up. But unless they can get some kind of defensive shape in play, like we saw with Tyrone the last day, to try and stop this rampant Dublin forward line, then they'll be in a lot of trouble."
Devenney doesn't expect Dublin's 31-match unbeaten run to end on Sunday but he reckons Mayo - or more especially Kerry in Tralee next month - could be the ones to stop them.