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Cúl & The Gang
Last year, their ultra-defensive style made them one of the most reviled Gaelic football teams in history. But there is no arguing with the transformation of Donegal in 2012 as they overcame three powerhouses of the game to win the All Ireland. Goalkeeper Paul Durcan lifts the lid on the Ulstermen’s extraordinary success – and discusses the controversies that have dogged enigmatic manager Jim McGuinness...
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 01 Nov 2012
McGuinness was deeply unhappy with the book and, infamously, refused to participate in the post-All Ireland press conference unless Bogue was removed. Controversy also followed the team’s Late Late Show appearance, with some feeling their time on air was too brief. Donegal councillor Sean McEniff – brother of the county’s only previous All-Ireland winning manager, Brian McEniff – even branded the team’s treatment as “an absolute disgrace” and demanded an apology from RTÉ.
All of this is on the agenda when Hot Press sits down in the Library Bar in Dublin’s Central Hotel to speak with Paul Durcan – an intelligent, friendly and engaging interviewee. He even reveals fascinating titbits about the team, including that Frankie Boyle is a bit of a fan, and Ninja Tune artist Bonobo is an unlikely favourite in the Donegal dressing room.
PAUL NOLAN: How has life been since the win?
PAUL DURCAN: For the four days after, we did a trip around Donegal. We left Dublin on the Monday morning and we had the homecoming in Donegal town – which is my hometown – and then we did a week of travelling around the county and visited every club. It was a hectic week. We were on a bus eight or nine hours a day, and it was tiring, but it was an amazing experience: every town was packed. I think there were 25,000 in Donegal town.
Coming back to the home club with Sam Maguire is the ultimate goal of every player.
It is yeah – we were just chatting about it yesterday at a club game. It still hasn’t really fully sunk in. You’re only realising now how much it means to people. I’m based in Dublin, and when you meet people here from Donegal, that’s when it starts to kick in. It’s been a good experience – and it seems it’s nearly getting better as the days go on.
After you lost the semi-final to Dublin last year, when did you start the ball rolling again?
We went on holiday to Florida for a week last year. I suppose we were back before that, not collectively, but we were doing our own work. I was here in Dublin, training with Philip Greene, the Sligo goalkeeper. We have a guy who trains us over in DCU, Gary Kelly, who’s a goalkeeping coach. You’re not allowed to come back before January technically. I think a lot of teams are going around that. But we started training in January and, in fairness, I think it was time enough. When you get to the ninth month of the year... if you were back last October, that’s a year of training. Leaving it to January was one of the best things we did. Our league form wasn’t great compared to the year before, because of coming back that bit later. But I think it might have stood to us later on in the championship. We didn’t pick up as many injuries and we weren’t as tired looking as the year went on.