Keepers deserve their ‘Pat’ on the back
By Frank Craig
Donegal goalkeeping coach Pat Shovlin says that Paul Durcan’s understudies both deserve credit for the consistency displayed by the big Four Masters man this term.
Durcan has been in inspired form ever since Jim McGuinness took charge. Along with his defence, that total unit has proved such a tricky nut to crack for anyone that’s come its way this term
And Ardara native Shovlin, who puts all three Tir Chonaill custodians through their paces each and every night at training, feels that the best way for any number one to bring their game forward is to have them constantly looking over their shoulder.
Durcan may have stiff competition in the form of Michael Boyle and Peter Boyle; but Shovlin insists that it’s healthy rivalry and that there is a great camaraderie between all three men.
“Paul has been there and has that experience for a long time now,” said Shovlin. “Michael has also been involved in big games at Croke Park so it was great to get him back on board. Peter is the youngest of the trio by a fair distance and we’ve no doubt that he has a big future ahead of him.
“To be fair to all three lads, they’ve really bought into the team ethic side of things and they are a close-knit group. Only one can play, but from day one, they’ve all trained with the intensity and view that they could be called on at any moment. Paul is driving them on as much as the other way around.
“I suppose that’s the union of goalkeepers – it’s so important to have teamwork – even if, at the end of the day, only one can play.
“Just like those outside the starting 15, the two boys are no different. They have to be ready to be thrown in at the deep end as anything can happen in football and you never know what can happen in the lead-up to a big game or even on match day.”
Shovlin admits that plenty of banter exits between the goalkeepers, the management and the outfield contingent of McGuinness’ squad. He also reveals that Rory Gallagher is the worst offender and often ribs all four men that they get off lightly. But Shovlin begs to differ, as do the boys themselves.
“Rory seems to think that we do (get off lightly)! added Shovlin. “But it’s all good fun and we do have fun. People tend to think that it’s regimental and that there’s no room for banter – but believe me there’s plenty!”
Durcan, without fail, continues to reference the positive impact that those sessions have had on his own game and the wide range of areas that Shovlin’s coaching touches on.
Shovlin also feels that the decision by Durcan’s club, Four Masters, to play the big man out field has also added another dimension to his game.
“It (playing full-forward for Four Masters) definitely helps. When Paul decides to come out and join in the play; he’s comfortable in possession and is often the first line of attack in that sense. We see it with Stephen Cluxton as well. He looks like he can play and even ventures up field to hit ‘45s for Dublin.
“Of course we work on kick outs and Paul has great variation in his distribution. But coaching only goes so far. Paul has a natural ability and confidence which you either have or don’t and no amount of coaching can give you that. The way he disguises and varies his kick-outs is definitely an asset.”
Pat, who works as a supervisor in the medical records department with the HSE, is based in Letterkenny and he says that everyone at Letterkenny General Hospital has been very understanding and flexible given the demands of the current campaign.
As well as Pat, the hospital’s surgical consultant, Kevin Moran; team doctor, Charlie McManus and team physio, Tommy Kerr, are all part of McGuinness’ backroom team.
“Like the rest of the boys, I’m very grateful to my employers for the leeway they’ve given me this year,” he continued. “Our assistant general manager at the hospital is a guy named Patrick Rooney. He’s a big GAA fan so that has helped.
“We appreciate all the help they’ve given to us. Even during the day at the hospital, everyone is asking how things are going and wishing us well before games. It (Donegal’s run) has lifted everyone and hopefully it continues at the weekend.
“My own wife works here as well so even she can’t get away from it all! But there definitely is big support in the hospital for us. It gives everyone something positive to talk about and distracts from the usual speak about recession and the economy. It’a tonic for the whole county.”