John Durcan, father of Donegal’s outstanding goalkeeper, Paul, got the chance to get his hands on the Sam Maguire once more after an interval of 61 years.
Durcan, from Foxford, held Sam aloft in 1951 when Mayo last won the All-Ireland title, but on Sunday night he got his hands on the coveted trophy again, but in a much more special way as he was in company of the holder of the Donegal No. 1 jersey.
Number one is a good way to describe the big Four Masters man who has guarded the Donegal goals for the last ten years. Before that his father also guarded all things Donegal and yesterday he was a proud father.
“I was a bit nervous on Saturday, but once we got the first goal, the nerves disappeared. It was even better when we got the second,” said John.
“We lost our way a little after getting the lead, especially in the ten minutes before half-time but in the final ten minutes our full-back line were magnificent.
“We had a great night last night in Donegal Town and there were plenty of pictures take,” said the proud father.
Speaking on the homecoming platform on the Diamond on Monday night, the All-Star elect goalkeeper, Paul ‘Papa’ Durcan, was still coming to terms with the magnitude of what had happened.
“It’s unbelievable. You couldn’t write, as they say. The crowd was just unreal today. To see the family up in the Abbey there, it’s a dream come true,” said Paul, whose brother came home from Canada for the game.
“Sean came home from Canada. In fairness he made the long trip, himself and Georgina. It’s just a dream come true, to meet them immediately after the game and to see my family and be able to celebrate with Karl and Barry was something special.”
There was one special picture of big Durcan was engulfed by teammates at the final whistle in Croke Park on Sunday.
“God knows who else was on top of me. All I could hear was Karl saying, ‘get off me, get off me’. It was so long and we had trained together and travelled together, and be able to do it together was an unbelievable feeling.”
The ‘keeper said he wasn’t really nervous at any stage on Sunday but it was in the second half before the game plan was really adhered to.
“In fairness I don’t think we were too nervous. Coming out in the second half the confidence was there, I think. We knew we done what we were told to do we would beat them. I think the lads stuck to their task straight away and maybe we let them back in a few times again but we never felt we were under pressure. I think it had a lot to do with the full-back line. Neil, Eamon and Paddy were just unbelievable. In fairness to Michael (Murphy) he got the man of the match, but I would have said that Eamon wasn’t too far behind him,” said Paul.
While he was full of praise for his full-back line, Durcan also praised his captain, Michael Murphy, especially in the way he took his scores in the second half.
“In fairness I don’t think any of us expected him to miss them. We see him doing it in training every day. He hits about 20 frees after training and he doesn’t miss any.
“Two of the frees he hit from the ground were unbelievable but I have to look at the lads in front of me and I think the half-back line and the full-back line were just immense for me personally,” said Paul.
He was also happy that Donegal did not concede a goal as they had done in the games against Kerry and Croke.
“Aye definitely. I think we were a bit disappointed with the quarter-final and semi-final and to keep a clean sheet in the final was unbelievable.”
The Donegal custodian is now in prime position to take the All-Star goalkeeping slot and it will be one of the positions that will take little time for the selectors to decide, given the season that Durcan has had. His saves, especially against Tyrone, and his kick-outs have been superb. It will be a major surprise if he does not join Gary Walsh as a Donegal goalkeeping All-Star.
“I was chatting to Gary (Walsh) last night. I was chatting to Gary and Tony Blake as well and it was great to see them there last night (in the Burlington) but really I would give away an All-Star to have another All-Ireland medal. To have this one in the bag is just amazing.”
The big ‘keeper said that he had met his parents after the game in the Burlington and is looking forward to getting Sam Maguire to Ardeskin in Donegal Town for a night.
“We had a good night at the function. He got his hands on Sam last night (after the 61 year wait). We will get it over to Ardeskin.”
Asked if he would take the cup for a trip back to Foxford with his father, he wasn’t as sure.
“I don’t know if they would welcome it,” says Paul.