Mayo's Paddy Durcan aiming to deliver again against Tyrone
ARGUABLY Paddy Durcan’s latest course of study is simply an extension of his life as a Mayo senior footballer – a Masters in sports psychology at Ulster University.
The Castlebar man has been involved in the westerners’ most recent tales of woe, losing the 2017 and 2016 All-Ireland Finals to Dublin, both by the minimum margin, the latter after a replay, with Mayo netting two own goals in the drawn match.
Yet the 24-year-old, who’s likely to line out against Tyrone in Healy Park in Allianz Football League Division One this Sunday, shrugs off the suggestion that Mayo are under pressure to deliver a first Sam Maguire Cup success since 1951:
“The main thing playing with Mayo, from a support point of view, I wouldn't be able to do it justice talking about it because people are football-mad in Mayo. They want to see you do well and you get immense pride playing with that.
“Even the other night [against Roscommon in the Division One opener] on an horrendous night they were there in their thousands. They'll be in Omagh and they were in Carrick-on-Shannon and Tuam for FBD League games.
“You're definitely aware of what you're playing for and you want to do well and for yourself, your family and stuff like that. There is an expectation, you have to deliver for those fans, and they deserve it. You want to work hard and do well for them.”
The 24-year-old will be well-versed in Tyrone’s desire for more national success too, given that one of his housemates is Red Hand defender Michael McKernan, who’s an undergraduate at UU (Jordanstown).
“I'm not up there all the time, I'm only up there every couple of weeks, but I'm living with Michael McKernan and will be playing against him on Sunday and with him on the Wednesday [in the Sigerson Cup, against NUI Galway]. He's a good lad and a right good footballer too.”
He’s also sharing accommodation with one of Donegal’s many rising stars, Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher, and Derry duo Gareth McKinless and Terence O'Brien.
After four years doing a Business Studies degree at DCU, this is a new learning environment for him, and he also has a new boss with Mayo, with James Horan having returned to the role.
“Personally I didn't get the chance to play under him before. I came in [to the Mayo senior set-up] in 2015 after he had just left at the end of 2014. I've really enjoyed working with him.
“There's a freshness about it and four young lads coming in for their debuts [against Roscommon] was good to see. Brian Reape got a goal, Conor Diskin, Fionn McDonagh, James McCormack and other lads are pushing hard in training and will get chances, which is good coming into championship…
“Different managers have different styles and stuff like that. I didn't get to work under James before so it's new to work with him but I have enjoyed it so far.
“He is willing to give new fellas a chance and they've done really well to date. Are we the finished article so far? Definitely not, but we're going to keep working at it and get ourselves better.”
His studies can help him to garner a better understanding of Gaelic football – and more, as he points out: “Even team backgrounds. I’d be keen on a lot of sports, so the ‘All Blacks’ [New Zealand rugby union] are a high environment group, the NFL [American Football] I'd be watching, you can learn a lot from watching other sports. I'd be a big sports enthusiast and read different books, ‘Legacy’ about the ‘All Blacks’ and stuff like that.
“Any sports, if you're following the Irish rugby team or [English] Premiership soccer clubs, you're just interested to see what that environment is like.
“There's different facets you can take from any sporting environment and apply it to your own and how you can improve yourself and just from a general genuine keen interest in watching other sports to see how they work I suppose.”
One lesson he has learned from the Allianz Football League is never to rest on any laurels: “The league is definitely competitive. We got off to a good start against Monaghan last year [winning in Clones] – and then lost three on the bounce after that.
“You want to win your first game but it's one of seven. You have to back it up and we want to back it up this weekend. It's always tough in Omagh and we expect no different this Sunday”.