Paddy Durcan impressed with Mayo's newcomers
By Cian O'Connell
In Mayo Gaelic Football dominates the agenda so even on a wicked winter night Paddy Durcan was still struck by how many green and red people flocked through the Elverys MacHale Park turnstiles.
The conditions ensured the game was never going to be pretty in front of 10,941 spectators against Roscommon, but the simple fact that the spoils were secured brought satisfaction.
Four players featured in the Allianz League for the first time adding to the feel good factor and Durcan, the splendid Castlebar Mitchels clubman, is delighted to be motoring once more acknowledging that another tough test awaits when Mayo visit Healy Park on Sunday for a clash with Tyrone.
“We were just happy to get off to a winning start, but we got off to a winning start last year against Monaghan and then lost to Kerry and had a couple of losses,” Durcan recalls.
“Hopefully we can improve things this year and get a win this Sunday again. That will be the aim, but we are happy to get a first win because you want to come out of the blocks quick. It was two valuable points.”
After exiting the 2018 Championship at the Round Three Qualifiers stage in June is there a different dynamic about Mayo’s League preparations now? “I think it is great to see young lads coming in,” Durcan replies. “We had four debutantes the last night - Brian Reape, Conor Diskin, James McCormack, and Fionn McDonagh.
“Once you see young lads like that who are enthusiastic and doing really, really well getting a chance means that bit of freshness is good. It is important to get the winning start - we did it last year - but we need to follow it on. Definitely the freshness and the youth on a new team is a positive we can take.
“You have the four of them and a lot of other young lads chomping to get a chance and I'm sure they will as the year progresses.
“There is a freshness and enthusiastic nature about the team, we just want to play games and do as well as we can. Hopefully we might have a bit better playing conditions to play a bit more football on Sunday.”
That James Horan is now calling the shots adds another sub plot and Durcan, who made his Mayo debut in 2015, is relishing the opportunity to work with the new manager. “This is my first time with James Horan, I've really enjoyed it,” Durcan says. “We are only early enough days, we are only back a couple of months or whatever.
“I've to say I've really enjoyed working with him, he is a highly skilled guy and wants the best for Mayo GAA. I've really enjoyed it so far to date.”
A hotly contested Division One is a good environment to operate in according to Durcan. “It is really enjoyable and even from a support point of view it is unreal for us playing for Mayo,” Durcan admits.
“The support we get is unbelievable. On a night like it was last Saturday night and the thousands upon thousands who come out to see it. No doubt they will come to Omagh on Sunday. The atmosphere is class to play in, they are high quality games against the top teams in the country.
“It is exactly what you want starting the year. Hopefully it will leave us in good stead going into the Championship. So it is all good on that front.”
Durcan is currently studying for a Masters in Sports Psychology in University Ulster Jordanstown, who are viewed strong Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup contenders. Throughout his playing career Durcan has forged an interest in the area. “Yeah, the experience I've got from playing and from playing environments and knowing how important it is for top athletes in any code,” Durcan states.
“It is something I'm enjoying so far and obviously you have the opportunity to play with a good team in Jordanstown. I've enjoyed that and it was nice to get a win in Tralee and hopefully we can do well in the quarter-final on Wednesday week.”
Working with teams in the future is something Durcan might explore when his studies are completed. “Potentially, I want to get the degree so I can make a more concrete decision upon finishing it. Down the line maybe it would be nice to work with teams, but I probably need to have a deeper think about that once I finish the degree. I wouldn't rule it out by any means.
“It is a growing field in the last 10 years. Before that it wasn't as big, it is the trendy thing now in an ever growing industry, I've enjoyed it to date. If it only helps me from a playing capacity great, but hopefully it will help me in a career sense further down the line.”