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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
I was at the quarter-final game against Kerry, which was the best match I saw this year. Tactically it was fascinating. What sort of preparation does it take to get your counter-attacking system working as brilliantly as it did?
There’s no lying about it, we put a lot of work into every aspect of it. Maybe last year we got a lot of criticism for being defensive. That was Jim’s plan – to get our defensive work-rate high enough, so that we could then go into forward play, which we did this year. It was a progression from last year, when our defence was amazing. We did concede more this year. That was due to the fact that we attacked more. There was a lot of work done on it in training and it’s not an easy system to play. I’m lucky enough I don’t have to do the running, but the boys are extremely fit and quick.
Watching you play the system, it did cross my mind that if you get it right – which you did all year – it’s almost unbeatable.
The day against Kerry, they missed a lot of chances in the first half. And we were lucky to go in so close to them at half-time. So I don’t think it’s unbeatable, but it is a tough system to break down. The lads have worked very hard at it and it’s something that I enjoy watching as well. I’ve seen teams play like it before – Tyrone were always the perfect example. We played Tyrone in the Ulster Championship and they were probably our toughest game of the year. We learned a lot that day: they set up very defensively and we found it hard to break down.
You made a great last minute save that day, which prevented Tyrone getting a draw.
It was lucky (laughs). It was a good save, but I was lucky that it came off the post too. One of the lads from Tyrone, Colm Cavanagh, was inches away from it and I had to close my eyes when I saw him diving for the ball. In that sense it was lucky, but no, it was a vital save. If that had gone in, it would have gone to a replay, and I doubt another game against them would have helped us. But I think we would have been able to stand up to them again.