‘I ran straight over to the doctor at the water break and said, ‘I’m in serious bother here”

AFTER ANOTHER STELLAR season, Paddy Durcan’s 2020 concluded in less than ideal circumstances.

The Mayo wing-back’s All-Ireland final lasted just 35 minutes. When his team-mates jogged out onto the Croke Park turf from the dressing rooms for the start of the second-half, Durcan wasn’t among them.

A quad injury sustained in the early stages of the game forced him off in one of the biggest games of his career. So Durcan watched from the stands as Dublin turned the screw on Mayo in the final quarter and sealed their sixth Sam Maguire in succession.

“About three and a half minutes in I had a bit of a pull on my quad and then there was limited running with that and then right just before the water break I had a serious pull on it then,” recalls Durcan.

“It was just on a change of direction. I wasn’t running at top speed or anything like that and then the second incident, just before the water break, I was in my full stride then.

“That was a real pull and it really restricted me. You are certainly aware of it but you try and manage it and I tried to manage it as best I could for the last bit of the first half to just get by and not be found out too much.

“But it certainly limited me and there is no point in saying any different. I was not at near full capacity.

“I ran straight over to the doctor at the water break and said it to him because the second incident happened just 30 seconds before the water break. I said, “Look, I am in serious bother here”. He asked would I be able to make it to half-time and I said I would try my best.

“I wasn’t right, I tried to play on until half-time but I was very limited and it was the right call to come off at half-time. It was unfortunate but it is what it is.

“The decision was made at half-time then and James changed things up. It was the right decision, there is no doubt about that. It was what it was, it was disappointing initially but there is no point being too down-beat about it.

“You move on fairly quick because there is no point in getting two downbeat about it. At the time you are disappointed but we have tried to move on from it anyway.

“I am positive and optimistic and hopefully I will be able to move on from it this season and show what I am able to do and what we can do as a team.”

It’s an injury that would have ruled the Castlebar Mitchels man out for a decent chunk of the Allianz Football League had it started as scheduled earlier this year.

He’s been busy getting scans and consulting with physios as part of a lengthy rehabilitation process he describes as “monotonous”. But Durcan has resumed light running recently and is looking “to getting back in the next few weeks whenever we get the green light.”

Durcan’s absence against Dublin was significant. Man-marking Ciaran Kilkenny, he greatly restricted the Castleknock man’s influence in the first period. But after half-time, Kilkenny enjoyed far more freedom and picked off a few nice scores.

“I did okay I suppose during the time I was on him,” he reflects. “I don’t think necessarily it was my brilliant defending or anything like that. I thought we played the better football in the first-half as a team.

“There wasn’t that much ball coming into him. As I said, I wasn’t moving at full output so I don’t think it was definitely my brilliantly defending by any means or anything like that.

“I thought we did a lot of things right in the first-half, as a team, bar getting killed for a couple of goals. But we played a lot of good football. I thought maybe as a forward unit they probably didn’t get a massive chance to showcase what they could do for that half, as I said, more so than my defending.

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“It is difficult when you’re watching on,” he says of the second-half. “I’ve lucky enough, it’s not something I’ve had to do too much. It definitely was strange.

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“You’re trying to help the lads at half-time to encourage them and to say that there’s a right chance for us to finish off the game. I was able to move on from it fairly quick but obviously I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tinge of disappointment that I wasn’t able to play in the second-half.”

Despite regaining the Connacht crown and pushing the Dubs hard for three quarters of the All-Ireland final, Mayo were awarded just two All-Stars last month.

Although Durcan was arguably the most unlucky to miss out, the 2019 award winner has few complaints.

“Look, I won one last year and it was the first one for the club so it was a massive couple of nights between celebrating that in the clubhouse and stuff. So I certainly wouldn’t belittle it in any capacity. It was great to win.  

“I knew I was definitely in contention to win one this year and it would be close, but obviously I didn’t get picked or whatever. But I wouldn’t have massive complaints for it either to be honest with you.

“Would have loved to have won it, know it was close. To be honest it’s very subjective anyway. I think no matter what team you pick, you’re going to have some people saying it’s a disgrace X or Y didn’t make it.

“It’s open to interpretation and like I said I wouldn’t have massive complaints over it. I know it probably was close but I wouldn’t feel overly hard done by in any sense.”

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