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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
What was the training schedule in January?
It was a couple of nights a week and then whatever you’re doing outside of that yourself in the gym. In fairness, Jim’s good enough to myself. I’m up here in Dublin so I only really travelled home for training on the weekends. I trained up here with Gary and Philip and that was enough for the first three months of the year. When the nights are dark and the roads aren’t great, it’s frosty and so on, it’s a long road to Donegal. Then, later on in the year, I would be going home one night a week and the boys would be training Tuesday, Thursday and at the weekends.
Is that the most intense it gets in training?
It would be yeah. It’s regimental nearly – it’s Tuesday, Thursday and maybe once or twice at the weekend, it depends. It isn’t as hectic as people would have thought maybe.
GAA teams have become increasingly ‘professional’ in their approach, and there is a perception that Donegal have ratcheted up the commitment levels even further.
A few people have asked me that – what is the difference? Is it more training? I would say it’s not more training; it’s better, more intense training. When we do train, it is high intensity. Obviously there’s a bit more work in the gym, but collectively there wasn’t anything extra really.
You had a very difficult draw, having to play the preliminary round in Ulster again. How did you feel about that?
It’s kinda funny. Looking back now, winning the Ulster title for the second time, it’s not as good as an All-Ireland, but I’ll tell you, it wasn’t far off. An Ulster title was always a dream I had, and to do it back-to-back was just amazing. When you see how competitive Ulster is... maybe it means a lot more to players up there. That was a brilliant feeling, bringing the cup home the second time.
Looking at the success of Crossmaglen at club level, is there something in the psyche of Ulster teams – an innate toughness – that drives them on?
I know a lot of the Mayo boys from college, and I lived with a guy from Roscommon as well. And they are as intense and focused on football. Crossmaglen are one of the most amazing teams I’ve ever seen – they will probably go down in history as the best club team that’s ever played the game. They’re a different class. It’s always said in Crossmaglen they don’t really have competing sports, whereas a lot of other counties might. Dublin would have soccer and rugby and so on. But what Crossmaglen have done is amazing.