Why Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton is glad he made switch from 'fickle' soccer to GAA
Just five years ago, Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton was playing in a MacLarnon Cup final for St Eunan's, Letterkenny.
To the surprise of many, his club was listed in the programme as 'Finn Harps'.
His association with St Eunan's, Letterkenny had yet to begin in earnest as he was forging a career in League of Ireland soccer - 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.
Two Ulster titles later, and after being acknowledged as having one of the finest kickouts in the game, Patton is delighted to have made the switch.
"There are no regrets whatsoever," said the 23-year-old after Donegal's Ulster final triumph over Cavan on Sunday.
"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.
"It 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 sports compare with one another, with Donegal having Patton's St Eunan's clubmate Andy McGovern - another man with League of Ireland experience - as their goalkeeping coach, Patton replied: "The professionalism of the whole game is crazy, it's crazy and yet it's fantastic to see.
"To see how the boys are so inspired, so delighted to play for their county, their colours, it is just phenomenal.
"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 I am so grateful for Declan (Bonner) to have given 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."
At present, Patton is keeping Paul Durcan on the Donegal bench, with the latter being touted as the next best goalkeeper after Stephen Cluxton earlier this decade.
Patton's sum total of Gaelic football played prior to his call-up from Bonner was two Ulster Club games in 2014 against Roslea and Omagh for St Eunan's. He hadn't played a single league or Donegal Club Championship game. When Bonner put the call through, he was in negotiations with Cork City.
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. "It's so much hard work over the year and it's great to get days like this. We will enjoy tonight and get back to work straight away and get back to work."
Meanwhile, the draw has been made for Round Three of the All-Ireland football qualifiers and has thrown up a couple of really enticing ties involving the two Ulster teams left standing at this stage of the competition.
Tyrone have a repeat of the 2013 Round Three clash when they revisit Kildare, that game being played at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge.
Armagh's reward for their impressive win over Monaghan last Saturday in Clones is Mayo in Castlebar. The Connacht side played out an entertaining win over Down last Saturday in Newry.
The remaining fixtures are Westmeath v Clare, and Laois v Offaly in Portlaoise.
Round Three Qualifiers Draw
Kildare v Tyrone (Saturday, Newbridge, 5pm, live on Sky Sports)
Mayo v Armagh (Saturday, Castlebar, 7pm, live on Sky Sports)
Westmeath v Clare (Saturday, Mullingar, 6pm)
Laois v Offaly (Saturday, Portlaoise, 7pm)
Extra-time if necessary and winner on the day rules apply