The least predictable, most liked

There’s a famously hilarious episode of The Simpsons in which the Italian mafia are fighting with their Japanese counterparts outside 742 Evergreen Terrace.

As the violence starts, a concerned Marge ushers Homer into their house but he protests, pointing to a white-suited Japanese gangster: “That little guy hasn’t done anything yet. Look at him. He’s going to do something and you know it’s going to be good.”

As soon as they close the door, a ninja noise is heard followed by a thump. Homer groans having missed the action.

A little time later and with the fight outside ongoing, the couple are sitting in the kitchen when the Asian hood is thrown through the window and then begs forgiveness for breaking it.

One wonders whether Shane ‘Cake’ Curran has ever watched that Japanese mobster and thought of himself. Watch him between the sticks, even in his quieter moments, and you’re afraid to take your eyes off him for fear of him doing something completely unexpected.

Playing for Roscommon, he was the GAA’s version of Colombia’s eccentric goalkeeper Rene Higuita. An embodiment of unbridled excitement who wasn’t satisfied with merely defending a line.

The stories are well-known by now from scoring a penalty as his team-mate prepared to take it in the 1989 Connacht final.

Now 42, his return to the St Brigid’s senior team last August, 25 years after he started playing for them, was a surprise but then it was nothing out of character.

“I don’t believe in retirement,” he smiles. “I played in 2008, and then I was injured in 2009, had a double-disc operation in my back in 2010 — but I had never officially retired.”

He mightn’t have been playing but he never managed to keep himself out of the picture either. After St Brigids’ controversial 2011 Connacht final, it was he who protected referee Liam Devenney from irate Corofin supporters after the final whistle.

A year later and at the same stage, he was making an aerobic late save to deny Ballaghaderreen’s James Kilcullen a goal. St Brigid’s had the game in the bag but Curran wasn’t going to be denied his moment.

That save maintained his string of clean championship sheets going back six games.

So it’s with a healthy dollop of pleasure that neutrals will watch on him as he puts his shoulder behind the attempt to halt Crossmaglen’s three-in-a-row bid today (he has overcome a quad injury sustained in a recent challenge game to start in Mullingar).

But perhaps the other goalkeepers in the Kiltoom club mightn’t be so agreeable. After all, it was Curran who had been coaching them before manager Kevin McStay asked him to put on his boots once again.

“It turned out to be tough,” he admits. “To be fair, that is the call of the manager, players really don’t have anything to do with it and all you can do is come in and play to the best of your ability.

“One would have dropped out, I suppose, for personal reasons and the other didn’t compete for the position. So at the end of the day it was left there to myself and Tom [Finnerty] and another lad [Shane Mannion] there and we wanted to encourage other younger goalkeepers to come through.”

Even if he was out of the game for the best part of four years, he never doubted he would be able to carry on where he left off.

“Since Kevin asked me back, it has never been a fear of mine. It was probably more of a fear for Kevin that it could all blow up in his face and end in tears. You could speak to people who would want it to end up in tears.

“I know that I could do that myself, I know that while there is a lot of goodwill, in every community there are also people who want you to fail by the nature of their own personalities. You have to balance that but I have never really been worried about it.

“We have won a Connacht title so we have achieved that and at the beginning of the year there were a few who probably thought that we wouldn’t.”

Curran’s life less ordinary on the field has certainly been matched off it. A few years back, he was involved in producing goalkeeper kicking tees.

Now he’s the co-founder of Global Flood Solutions, a company which supply defence products to governments as well as NGO’s around the world.

Recently, his work took him to Afghanistan. “We supply one product, we call it a BBS [the Big Bag System which are basically sandbags].

“It’s an unusual area to go into but with the downturn in construction we had to look at something else to get into. I was a builder’s provider prior to this, and I just couldn’t get paid.

“This is going in the right direction, we are delighted with it. We have an office in Canada, and I have been to Uganda and Africa on numerous occasions, to the UN, and the US, it involves a lot of travel.”

The feeling in and around Kiltoom is St Brigid’s owe Crossmaglen one this afternoon, having lost by three points to the Armagh side in both the 2007 semi-final and ’11 final. Whatever happens, Curran will have no regrets. Whatever happens, he has won his first Connacht medal.

“If you are enjoying something, it does not matter if you are 21 or 41, if you are not enjoying it, it is the same difference.

“Age is something that people will focus in on and say ‘at 42, he shouldn’t be playing, he is doing this, that and the other’ but I can bet you that there are players who are 24 or 25 who are not enjoying it as much as I am enjoying it now.

“If I feel as good as I do now in June, July, August and September I will still keep playing.”

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