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Sunday 4 December 2016

Paddy hopes his day will come

Dublin are the benchmark but Durcan hasn't lost faith in Mayo's ability to bridge the gap

Mayo’s Paddy Durcan was voted the GAA/GPA Opel Footballer of the Month for September.
Mayo’s Paddy Durcan was voted the GAA/GPA Opel Footballer of the Month for September.
Paddy Durcan

Paddy Durcan is not the type to go wallowing in Mayo's most infamous abode, The House of Pain.

That's partly, you suspect, because he's still in the early days of his senior career and isn't scarred by years of recurring on-the-cusp-of-glory devastation. It's also because, well, there has been no time for looking back.

The wing-back dynamo yesterday received his GAA/GPA Opel All Stars Footballer of the Month award for September - a fair achievement given Mayo's familiar All-Ireland final fate, but also due recognition of his excellence both in defence and attack (totalling 0-3) over both days.

But while this meant a first trip back to Croke Park since Dublin won that edge-of-the-seat replay, Durcan has indulged in little introspection since then. That's because there's a club title to defend, with Castlebar Mitchels facing Ballaghaderreen in a Mayo SFC quarter-final this Sunday.

Disappointment

"Look, there's a bit of disappointment there but I haven't had the chance to think about it too much," he explains.

"We played last weekend with the club (albeit Durcan was one of those rested) and we're out in a quarter-final again on Sunday. My sole focus is trying to get myself right for that."

Castlebar have their own Dublin-inflicted All-Ireland demons to exorcise after their March collapse to Ballyboden St Enda's; but Durcan is wary of minefields closer to home and expects a "really competitive" contest from Andy Moran's Ballaghaderreen.

The DCU business student, currently on work placement in the capital, has been on a constant treadmill between county and club for almost two years solid. But he refuses to see it as a grind.

"It is tough in a sense that the calendar year is non-stop," he says, "but I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it - and I really do enjoy it. I feel privileged enough that we have a competitive club and a good environment with Mayo."

Ah yes, Mayo. Given that he's back in HQ because of his exploits at the same venue, Durcan can't avoid the inevitable stream of questions.

He faced Dublin off the bench last year but this was his first summer as a regular. As one of the younger guns in green-and-red (just turned 22) is it a case that he doesn't have much psychological scar tissue or does the House of Pain metaphor apply?

"I wouldn't have any opinion on that. You just take every year for what it is," he insists.

"Had we won last Saturday week, or given the fact we've lost … there's 32 teams going to go for the 2017 championship. So '16 is not going to have an influence. There's going to be new fellas coming in; it's going to be a new panel. I don't think you can look back that much."

Durcan hasn't watched the replay back yet, primarily because he's been consumed by club commitments. But he will do so at a later date; it's something he always does in pursuit of self-improvement.

Speaking of improvement, he's adamant that the gap between Dublin and Mayo (so tantalising over the past two summers) can be bridged.

"The margins are very small - there is not much between lots of teams all competing for the same prize," he says. "Look, they won, I have no complaints, they were the better team on the day.

"They are a super team, you have to give credit. They have won a number of All-Irelands ... they have the environment and game-plan and know the process they're going through. They are the benchmark."

But not invincible?

"Look, you have to have confidence in your own team. You have your goals set and you want to reach them. You are not going to fear a team, but I would have the height of respect for them."

Decorated

Next year, he hopes, some decorated U21 graduates will help to raise the bar.

"There are lads who won All-Ireland medals this year who will definitely look to push on and get a jersey," he predicts. "I will need to improve next year if I want to hold onto the jersey. There is a lot of work to be done."

And endless motivation to do it.

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