The 23-year-old came through the Glasgow Warriors Academy and played in last summer’s pre-season friendly against Canada A at Stirling before making the move south to get experience playing in the third tier of English rugby for Hull Ionians.
It paid off with a Warriors contract in the summer and the 6ft 8in forward made his full debut in Sunday’s 47-6 win over the Ospreys in Swansea.
“It’s not a pro league but it’s for players going up and down the system,” explained McDonald, who has been back playing for Glasgow Hawks in the BT Premiership this season.
“I did work part time as well as playing. I trained Tuesday and Thursday then played Friday or Saturday. Down there it was physical, big guys coming from the championship. It went both ways. Guys coming down and others going up.”
McDonald was delighted when Glasgow made the approach to bring him back on a one-year deal.
“It was quite a crazy couple of months,” he said. “I was on my way down to England to widen my rugby horizons. I didn’t have that chance in Glasgow. The competition here is fierce. After I went down to Hull after a couple of weeks we started talking to Glasgow and things went from there.
“The pool in England is big but you have so many more teams.
“It’s just Glasgow and Edinburgh here and it’s tough. Hopefully I can make my mark over the next few weeks.”
The former pupil of Boclair Academy, a comprehensive in Bearsden, was a keen basketballer in his youth and explained: “I did a mix of sports. I didn’t have my eyes set on one particular sport. I took a shine to rugby when I was in secondary school, maybe at the age of 14. I started playing club rugby at 18.
“As a kid you try to compare yourself to big players. My family were good at pushing me forward, not just in sport but in other aspects of life.”
With the bulk of Glasgow’s Scotland contingent resting after the autumn series and injuries to Tim Swinson and Brian Alainu’uese, McDonald is now hoping for another taste of Guinness Pro14 action and a first at a packed Scotstoun when Cardiff come calling tomorrow night.
“The speed more than anything was the big thing”, said McDonald of that debut at the Liberty Stadium.
“It is very fast. You have to get your lungs after about 30 seconds. Once you get through that first wind you get a second wind and you get going. There are a lot of stronger players who are fitter and faster and more physical.
“I took it in my stride and just tried to enjoy it. Didn’t chase the game and once the five, ten minute mark was gone I tried to enjoy it as best as could.
“Everyone has been on a high since the start of the season. We have such great coaches here and a great playing bunch and the league success helps us on our way. We can’t complain.”
McDonald is keen to play his part in stretching Glasgow’s perfect start to the Pro14 season.
“The focus last week was about continuing the winning streak and playing the best rugby we possibly can,” he said.
“The media may have been touching on a few of the players being away, but the younger boys coming through had to keep the standards high for when those players come back from international duty.
“We are competing for spaces and we have to keep the challenge steep to get into the team.”