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Donegal goalkeeper Paul Durcan gets a real kick from his pivotal role

By John Campbell

In years gone by, goalkeepers were not even deemed capable of taking kick-outs.

That task usually fell to a muscular full-back who fulfilled the basic brief of thumping the ball as high and as long as he could, the basic premise being that he hit it and God guided it.

How times have changed! When Paul Durcan lines out with Donegal against Kerry in pursuit of his second All-Ireland medal on Sunday, he will not only be their formidable last line of defence but their first point of attack.

And it's the accuracy and precision of his kick-outs that could have a vital bearing on the outcome of the game.

Durcan, 10 years between the posts, has seen the role of goalkeeper all but transformed yet he appears to revel in the added responsibility that has been heaped on his broad shoulders.

The 30-year-old Dublin-based company executive, who admits that he is "savouring every moment" of the build-up to the final, is acutely aware that not only will his reflexes and athleticism be fully tested by the shooting skills of ace forwards such as James O'Donoghue and Peal Geaney but that his kick-outs must consistently find their target.

"It's an All-Ireland final and we are coming up against Kerry, the kings of football in my eyes. That makes it very special so we have to be on our toes," maintains Durcan.

In five championship matches to date Durcan has conceded just two goals but is more anxious than ever to ensure he keeps a clean sheet on Sunday.

"Goals are absolutely crucial at this level and we simply cannot afford to concede one. They can prove a game-changer as we all know," insists the Four Masters clubman.

Virtually from the moment Jim McGuinness took over, he has placed strong emphasis on Durcan's role as the source of the counter-attacking style that has made Donegal the most feared team in the country.

Those teams who inadvertently drop shots short and into Durcan's welcoming arms generally always pay a heavy penalty, the ball invariably whipped to the other end of the pitch with a score perhaps resulting.

"Our attacks often start on our own goal-line and we move the ball at pace. When opponents have committed themselves coming forward it means that we can often hit them on the break and make such raids count," points out Durcan.

The fact, too, that the Donegal defence has remained largely a fixed unit means that there is an almost telepathic understanding among the players when it comes to counter-attacking.

"The players know their roles and we always stick to the game plan no matter what happens. We know that Kerry will be very difficult to beat because they have so much experience and flair in their side but we will be up for the challenge," promises Durcan.

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