Just five years ago, Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton was playing in a MacLarnon Cup final in goal for St Eunan’s Letterkenny.
To the surprise of many, his club was listed in the programme as Finn Harps.
His association with Letterkenny club St Eunan’s had yet to begin in earnest, as he was forging a career in League of Ireland soccer.
That is, until Donegal manager Declan Bonner targeted Patton as someone he wanted in his panel immediately after he took over from Rory Gallagher at the tail end of 2017.
At present, Patton is keeping Paul Durcan on the Donegal bench, with Durcan being touted as the next best goalkeeper after Stephen Cluxton in the early years of this decade.
His sum total of Gaelic football played prior to Bonner’s call-up was two Ulster club games in 2014, against Roslea and Omagh, for St Eunan’s.
He hadn’t played a single league game or Donegal club championship. When Bonner put the call through, he was in negotiations with Cork City.
Two Ulster titles later and acknowledged as having one of the finest kickouts in the game, Patton is delighted to have made the switch.
“Listen, there are no regrets whatsoever,” said the 23-year-old. “It was obviously a tough decision to make, but it was a decision I made with no regrets.
"It kind of became an easy decision when I saw how fickle life was in the League of Ireland.
“You come into this set-up and I am telling you, it’s amazing, but Gaelic football has always been in my life.
"If you are from Donegal and you don’t follow Gaelic football, there’s not a lot of things left for you.
“Doesn’t matter what sport you are playing, there is such a drive and a passion behind Donegal football that I am just grateful to be a part of it.”
Asked how the two codes compare, with Donegal having Patton’s St Eunan’s clubmate Andy McGovern — another man with League of Ireland experience — as their goalkeeping coach, Patton said: “The professionalism of the whole game is crazy, it’s crazy and yet it’s fantastic to see.
“It’s funny, but Gaelic is a background I always had and I always enjoyed it. I always played.
"For one reason or another, I chose soccer when I was younger, but listen, I am so grateful for Declan [Bonner] to give me that opportunity last year to come into the squad.
“It was a new life for me, to see the difference in the two sports. To see the passion and drive.
"The players, this bunch of players, they are just unbelievable. Nobody ever sees what goes on behind closed doors.
"It is absolutely unbelievable and I am so thankful to have it.”
Patton is the ultimate rarity in Gaelic football.
St Eunan’s got him from the county team, which could be the first time a development like that has occurred, but also testament to manager Bonner’s ability to see things in the abstract.
Now, he has two Ulster titles.
“On occasions like this and days like this, it’s just something that you live for and you train for,” he said.
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