Late last night, Paul Durcan arrived into Dublin from the Middle East.
It’s the third such eight hour flight he’s made to play for Ballyboden St Enda’s these last couple of months. After tomorrow’s Leinster final, he’ll make the seven hour trip back hoping he has a medal to put through the metal detector and more air miles to amount in 2016.
Tomás Ó Sé never had it this difficult switching clubs but Durcan’s used to taking to the skies for his football. Often, he was helicoptered from Dublin to training in Donegal meaning he had the benefit of skipping those six-hour return road trips.
As he wings his way back home now, at least he knows he’s not alone. On his last trip to Dublin, he met two players from the St Maurs’s side he’d faced in the first round of the county championship. They too were heading back to line out for their club. There are others too like former Waterford footballer Shane Briggs who returned from the Middle East twice in the space of seven days for Ballinacourty.
Naturally, if you’d told Durcan back in April when he transferred to Ballyboden from Four Masters that he’d find himself in this situation he’d have laughed. Emigrating, though, was on the cards as soon as his wife Edel was offered a teaching contract in Doha, which began in September. A quantity surveyor, Durcan mentioned after the Dublin final that he “had to make a bit of money as the man says” but the move is more for the sake of his CV than anything else.
“I’d a very good job in Ireland but I wanted to get a bit of international experience and build my career. It’s more about that than anything else and having something to rely on when I do stop playing football. It’s definitely working here. It’s very enjoyable.” Work this week took him from Qatar to neighbouring Dubai but he’s been managing to get some training done with the help of Qatar GAA club. His 2012 All-Ireland winning team-mate Ryan Bradley is a member as is Frank McGlynn’s brother Seamie. Michael Murphy also has a cousin involved.
“I was out doing a bit with them. I was carrying a small bit of an injury last week with a dead leg so I didn’t really do too much but it’s been good this week and I’m just trying to keep the legs fresh when I kick. The ball travels further here and it’s giving me false hope – I’ve heard about the weather at home!” It was thanks to his cousin and Ballyboden defender Robbie McDaid, now on the Dublin panel, that the Firhouse Road club acquired his services.
“I decided to play with Ballyboden to cut a bit of time coming and going from Donegal. I was up there all weekend for club and county but when I switched clubs I had more time around the weekends.
“I had been living on the northside but I had the connection with Ballyboden through Robbie. Then (manager) Andy McEntee rang me himself. Robbie, I suppose, may have said something to him. I met Andy, I got on well with him and he brought me around the club. They’re a very accepting club on and off the field and they’re good to me. To have somewhere in Dublin to train and to have a good quality of training was great. I love playing with the Ballyboden boys.”
All-Star last year, a nominee this season, Durcan’s living arrangements have obviously cast doubt over his Donegal future as much as he’s not yet mentioned the word “retirement”. He spoke to Rory Gallagher recently and nothing has yet been ruled out.
“I’m focused on trying to work and somebody has given me a great opportunity. I haven’t thought about it and I don’t think I will until next year.
“As a goalkeeper, I’m young enough as it goes. I’m 32 now but it’s definitely not over for me. You never know what might happen in the years to come or even next year. I’ll just see how it goes. The priority is Ballyboden at the moment and then move on with work and enjoy life, as they say.”
He has plenty of time for reading on the flights but he’s yet to read Rory Kavanagh or Jim McGuinness’ book. He can understand why recollections of such a remarkable era in Donegal football has been committed to print but he won’t be following suit. “Rory Gallagher said to me, ‘You’ll write some book now!’” he chuckles, referring to his jet-setting. “Nah, I’ll leave that to the experts! I can’t wait to read Kav’s book and Jim’s book. I heard Kav has a few funny stories.
“It’s been such a whirlwind these last few years after such a quiet time for Donegal football. It was brilliant to be in it and almost felt like being in a bubble at times. I’ve made friends for life. I had a phenomenal time.”
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