If Donegal are to retain their Ulster Championship crown they are going to have to work harder and even put in a bigger effort than they did last year.
That is the view of the man that will wear the number one shirt this afternoon against Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park, goalkeeper Paul Durcan.
“Everybody will be all out to beat us and that is something we have to be prepared for and I suppose it is the one big difference from last year when we went into most games as the underdogs,” said Paul.
“But this year is different. We are the champions and are being talked up as one of the favourites for Ulster and it is something we are going to have to live with and deal with.
“If we are going to go all the way and win Ulster again we are also going to have to do it from the preliminary round again this year which is also against us as I’m not sure if it has ever been done before.”
Paul is not for one minute taking Cavan for granted and is anticipating a tough afternoon in Kingspan Breffni Park, where Donegal’s championship credentials will be tested.
“Cavan may not have had a great league. But they have changed manager and they have enjoyed great success at U-21 and have won the last two U-21 Ulster titles and the word coming out of Cavan is that they have trained very hard and have put in a huge effort since the end of the league.”
Despite the loss of Michael Hegarty (retired) and Kevin Cassidy (dropped), and even without the injured Michael Murphy, Donegal are at least as strong if not stronger than when they overcame Cavan with a fair bit to spare last summer.
“Michael and Kevin are no longer part of the squad but Patrick McBrearty is a good bit stronger and has a championship and national league behind him. Marty O’Reilly has come in and Declan Walsh has returned and they have strengthened the squad and I also feel having won the championship the whole squad is a lot more confident about their own ability and about what can be achieved.
“This time last year we were starting out not having won a first round game for a number of years and having suffered a heavy defeat to Armagh.
“I suppose that is the big difference this year, confidence. We now know what it takes and what we are capable of and it is a matter of going out and producing it on the field.”
The lure of another Ulster championship and the prospect of another roller coaster run to Croke Park in August and maybe even into September is what keeps Paul going.
Living in Dublin, it means at least two or three round trips a week from the capital to Donegal.
“It can be tough going, but I’m lucky this year that I’m back at College doing a course and it is coming to an end and it is not as difficult as when you are trying to do a day’s work and hold down a job. But it is worth it and when you have a run and success like we had last year it is worth it. But it can be demanding at times and the travelling alone takes a fair old chunk out of your week.
“But I’m happy to do it and I’m still enjoying my football and as long as I continue to enjoy it I will continue to do it and hopefully I have reason to clock up plenty of more miles this summer,” concludes Paul, who is a quantity surveyor by profession but is currently out of work and looking for a job.
But despite this he insists that he is staying in Donegal for the summer. New York, Boston or Perth are not for the big Donegal Town man. No he’s going to stick around and play his part in what he hopes is another big hype-filled summer for Donegal football.