Donegal and Monaghan banking on No. 1 to do booting business

Behind Stephen Cluxton, they are the best in the business. Just how vital will Rory Beggan and Paul Durcan be in tomorrow’s Ulster final?

Donegal and Monaghan banking on No. 1 to do booting business

BEGGAN

It seems something of an anomaly that Monaghan’s Rory Beggan has yet to win the annual Kick Fada competition. So good, true and long are his punts that he really should be king supreme. One look at that 65 metre kick against Dublin in this year’s Division 1 semi-final would provide all the proof one would need.

And yet if it weren’t for an injury to his clubmate, Darren Hughes, he would never have taken to hitting dead balls. But it’s his languid, almost casual style that is most intriguing. “I was taught that power isn’t everything. It’s the technique and you have to work at it. If you run up to a ball and if you are running at full speed there is a very good chance you are going to scuff it.”

It was the five converted frees against Armagh in last year’s drawn Ulster semi-final replay that really brought his skills to people’s attention. Donegal know as much as Monaghan appreciate Michael Murphy’s accuracy from distance that they can’t afford to be undisciplined in the majority of their own half and beyond.

Beggan’s consistency of kick-out is also noteworthy this year when his restarts were generally accepted as fundamental to Monaghan securing a semi-final spot.

Most of his success comes from his ability to pick out team-mates with middle range kicks. With Monaghan moving away from conventional midfielders under Malachy O’Rourke at least up until this year, he’s had to finetune that skill.

Although, it won’t have escaped O’Rourke’s attention that Monaghan have marginally lost the kick-out contest in their last two games despite winning both games. That being said, Beggan’s strength means he can also bypass midfield if required.

The security that Beggan offers to his team under a high ball is a primary advantage, the Scotstown man not afraid to use all of his 6ft5in frame to claim potential threats bombed his way.

As a former outfield player for his club, it’s hardly surprising he wants to and can play rather than merely stop it.

Like Durcan, he’s a man whose impressively agile for his size. Making himself as big as possible, he’s shown himself to be equal to so many dangers in one-on-one situations. He’s yet to be beaten for a goal in this year’s championship. In fact, he’s only had to reach into his net once in Monaghan’s last six competitive games.

DURCAN

GAA press boxes are usually sanctuaries of professionalism and devoid of partisanship butDonegal’s Paul Durcan provoked breaches of both over the last nine months.

At last November’s All Stars exhibition game in Canton, Massachusetts, the goalkeeper voted the best in the country twice in three years made an error that allowed the 2013 team in for a goal.

A journalist, who had been charged with giving an irreverent commentary of the game over the PA, remarked: “Where have we seen that before?”

The line drew gasps from those around him and spectators as well as looks of disbelief from managers Jim Gavin and James Horan on the sideline. Two months after his mistake handed Kieran Donaghy a goal in the All-Ireland final, one might have expected things were still too raw to make a joke of an error that had Durcan making a dart for the dressing room at the final whistle.

Fast forward to February in Ballyshannon this year and there were deep intakes of breath among the local press when Durcan failed to negotiate Brian Hurley’s squared hand-pass for Tomás Clancy to score a goal which made it a nervy finish for Donegal.

Having had an indifferent time of it in the McKenna Cup and looking questionable for Cormac Costello’s goal against Dublin in Croke Park earlier that month, it was feared that he had not yet recovered from the previous September.

Speaking about it two months later, he didn’t lie about how difficult it would be: “I have to live with it and move on and try and enjoy playing my football.”

Rory Gallagher had always planned to start Michael Boyle in the last two rounds of the league against Tyrone and Mayo. What has been seen of Durcan in the Ulster championship has more than satisfied Donegal’s keenest observers that he is back to his best.

At kick-out time, he has shown himself to be just as influential as he was against Dublin last year. One of Durcan’s specialties is a massive angled boot which either Michael Murphy or Neil Gallagher run in front of the other but dummy it, leaving it to the either to pick up. But it’s just one of many arrows in his quiver.

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