Shaun Patton made his debut for Donegal in 2018. Morgan Treacy/INPHO

'Teams try to get in your head and affect you' - being a GAA keeper without the crowds

Shaun Patton also discusses his decision to leave behind a League of Ireland career to play for Donegal.

THE DYNAMIC WITHOUT crowds at championship games is an interesting one for goalkeepers.

On one hand they don’t have to deal with abuse rolling off the stands, but the silence at games means opposing players can try to disrupt netminders on kick-outs with various calls.

“It’s strange without the crowds, it’s something extremely different,” says Donegal’s Shaun Patton.

“I don’t mind the crowds behind you, it’s enjoyable and people enjoy themselves. 

“It’s absolutely strange, but at the end of the day you are out there to perform and play a game of football, you are not too focused on what is around you.”

Of the shouts from opposition players, he says it’s just “part and parcel” of the game.

“It’s a thing that teams do, teams try to get in your head and try to affect you. It’s one of these things, you just have to take it as it comes and you have to understand every team will do their best to put the other team off in any way they can and try and gain a few inches.

“That’s just a tactic that teams use to try and maybe influence the ref to maybe blowing the keeper up for taking too long or distract the keeper.” 

Patton left behind a career in the League of Ireland with Sligo Rovers after the call came from Declan Bonner to link up with the Donegal squad for the 2018 season.

“It’s a good number of years ago now. I was kind of mostly soccer-orientated and I was always focused on the soccer and trying to do well in it.

“Fortunately I got to play with a couple of great clubs in the League of Ireland but, you know, it’s obviously no secret, when I did get injured I was kind of looking at the future and wanted to get a career for myself.”

He trialed at several English soccer clubs and it’s no surprise that he grew up idolising fellow Donegal man Shay Given.

“Back years ago you’re always fantasising about maybe playing Premier League football, seeing a local man like Shay Given, only over the road in Lifford, was always a massive inspiration.

“I played over [in England] with a number of clubs. I enjoyed my time over there. When you get to tournaments with the schoolboys team, it’s one of these chances that presents itself. I was lucky enough to get across and train with a few clubs.

“There were a few clubs. I’ll not really name them. I got away to Belgium for a tournament with one club. I was only 14. It was my first time being away from home by myself.”

shaun-patton Shaun Patton in action for Sligo Rovers against Falkirk in 2017. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Of his decision to switch codes, Patton says: “It definitely took a bit of time. It took a lot of talking with the family and the girlfriend and trying to figure it out.

“It was such a shock when he called me, I wondered did he have the right fella at the time. I was thinking, ‘Right, this is an opportunity for me’ and at the time I was with Sligo and I did love it.

“I always fond of playing Gaelic but I never thought on it and when the opportunity presented itself I sat down and looked at all aspects and, to be honest with you, I visited one training session and from then on my mind was made up.

“Whenever Declan offered me to come in and have an opportunity to be part of the panel it was nearly a given that I would go in. 

“I went in and I seen what it meant to the group that was in there at the time and I got sucked into it and I loved every moment of it since I joined.”

Patton watched on as Paul Durcan played a key role in Donegal’s All-Ireland success of 2012 and the two-time All-Star rejoined the panel last year after returning home from Dubai.

Durcan is among the GAA netminders he admired during his soccer career and started to study more when he threw his lot in with football.

“Papa had this unbelievable disguised kickout and it was just outrageous and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch,” says Patton.

paul-durcan 2012 All-Ireland winner Paul Durcan. Evan Logan / INPHO Evan Logan / INPHO / INPHO

“Obviously you see things like that and you realise how talented the keepers are. You obviously have [Stephen] Cluxton and [David] Clarke who’s been top keepers for a long time as well.

“I was more focused on the soccer but coming back into it then in 2018, you try and get as much information out of them and even looking over what they done over the years, trying to pick up ideas from them then.”

The Navan based Garda says it’s too early to start thinking about a potential All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Dublin given there’s an Ulster final still to play.

“At the minute they’re not anywhere in sight. We have a massive game against Cavan, with the two comebacks Cavan had over the Ulster campaign so far, they have an unbelievable resilience about them and such a spirit within the camp.

“We won’t be looking past the Ulster final, it’s a massive day. Cavan take great pride in their football, no different to ourselves, so our focus is on them.”

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