Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Cathal Noonan/INPHO
# Super Keeper
'Shay Given always texts the boys before the games wishing us luck' - Paul Durcan
The Donegal stopper has developed into one of the finest goalkeepers in the country.

OUTSIDE OF STEPHEN Cluxton, you’d do well to find a better goalkeeper in the country than Paul Durcan.

The Donegal stopper played a key role in their win over Dublin, thanks to the quality of his restarts and a couple of important saves.

His unique ability to change the direction of his kick-outs at the very last second was highlighted in that semi-final win, where Durcan provided the launchpad for many a Donegal attack.

It’s a skill he has mastered after hours of practice on the training field.

“There is a risk in it but it is something that I could always do. I never found it too hard to change direction so it doesn’t bother me now. It is something I do still work on to try and perfect it.”

Dublin went man to man on Donegal, pushing right up on Durcan’s restarts and forcing him to go long. During the opening 15 minutes, Durcan was under serious pressure as Dublin squeezed right up, but eventually they managed to gain a foothold around the middle.

“I don’t know exactly what it was, but a lot of the ones at the end of the game (we won) whereas a lot of the ones we lost came at the start of the game in the first 15 minutes. After that the lads worked harder on breaks around the middle.

Paul Durcan and Frank McGlynn James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“In fairness to Odhran (MacNiallais), he probably stepped up and won two kick-outs and they made a big difference. In fairness, that was a young fell coming in and having the guts to stand up and win that ball when we were under pressure and that was brilliant.

“When Michael (Murphy) makes a ruin he doesn’t stop so you know where he is going because he is going to keep going in a straight line. He is a great target man and his clubmate Neil (Gallagher) is another guy who can come out of nowhere for a ball.”

Diarmuid Connolly scorned a golden chance to extend Dublin’s advantage during that early spell of dominance, but Durcan’s save was a critical one.

“I don’t think he hit it well. I just got the body down and got a knee to it and it didn’t fall to one of their players, which was good. There were a few turning points.”

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Paul Durcan and Michael Murphy celebrate Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Republic of Ireland international Shay Given dropped into a training session during the year. “He was a hero of mine when I was growing up and it was a great experience for me. He always texts the boys before the games wishing us luck so we know he is behind us.”

Given took full part in a training session under McGuinness, where he is seen below facing down a shot from Paddy McGrath.


But Durcan acknowledges that Cluxton is still the benchmark for goalkeepers around the country and he enjoys watching him – apart from when they meet on the field.

“I was looking at the stats and his are way above our own. It seems that when he sees a man running it is going to his chest. He is unbelievable at it. It is a joy to watch, not when you are playing against him though.

“You think you are able to take him on at them but it is hard. If anyone is lazy out the pitch it is on their chest.”

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