Ulster SFC: Durcan says watching Donegal on TV in Doha convinced him to return

Paul Durcan holds the Sam Maguire Cup aloft after Donegal's win over Mayo in 2012
Paul Durcan helped Donegal win the All-Ireland title in 2012
2019 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Fermanagh v Donegal
Date: Sunday 26 May Venue: Brewster Park, Enniskillen Throw-in: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two Northern from 13:45 BST and the BBC iPlayer; live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster MW and BBC Sport website

Paul Durcan says it was watching championship games on television during his three years in Qatar that convinced him to rekindle his Donegal career.

Goalkeeper Durcan, 35, is back in the holders' squad for Sunday's Ulster SFC quarter-final against Fermanagh after rejoining the panel in February.

"Myself and Ryan Bradley were out there together and we used to meet up for every championship game," says Durcan.

"We were supporting hard and that was what gave me the desire to come back."

Durcan stepped away from Donegal squad after the 2015 championship, saying that it was "time to make a bit of money" after over 13 years of senior duty with his county.

The Four Masters clubman's first Donegal stint was highlighted by the county's 2012 Sam Maguire Cup triumph when he won his first All-Star while he was named in the Football team of the year again two years later despite gifting Kerry a vital goal with a misdirected kickout in the Kingdom's All-Ireland Final victory.

The quantity surveyor says he "worked hard" in the Middle East but admits "life was good".

Durcan's former Four Masters and Donegal team-mate Karl Lacey is part of Declan Bonner's backroom team
Durcan's former Four Masters and Donegal team-mate Karl Lacey approached the keeper to ask him to return to the county squad

But by last autumn Durcan had returned to Ireland and it wasn't long before his former Four Masters and Donegal club-mate Karl Lacey, who is part of Declan Bonner's backroom team, was in touch suggesting he should consider a return to the county set-up.

Having not played any competitive football for two years, Durcan felt he had to mull over the issue for a few more weeks but by late February, he was back in the squad.

With Shaun Patton having had an impressive Football League campaign as Donegal won the Division Two title to secure promotion, Durcan is not expecting to start Sunday's contest against an Erne County side managed by one of his former county bosses Rory Gallagher.

"Shaun is playing well and he had a good league and a good league final. I'll do my best to keep pushing him but I'm realistic about it.

"It's going to be a tough battle. It's a decision I made at the start knowing that and I'm there hopefully to support him in the best way I can if I am not playing.

"Be around the team and hopefully give as much insight as I can from my own career."

'I knew straight away I'd made the right decision'

After turning up to his first training session, Durcan says that he knew immediately his decision to return was the correct one.

"Probably 50% of them I'd never played with but their desire to win is the first thing I noticed.

"How committed they are to the training. It was an easy decision when I made the decision to come back and I knew right away that I'd made the right one.

"It's been an enjoyable few months. Your own fitness starts to improve and you're feeling better in yourself. A bit to go yet but it's brilliant to be around such a good group of lads."

While the conventional wisdom is that Fermanagh will continue with their trademark defensive approach under Gallagher in Sunday's game, Durcan believes there is more to the Erne method than some pundits would have you believe.

"They are a strong running team. They have five or six lads who can go past anyone.

"The lads know that and experienced it in Letterkenny this year which was a disappointing defeat for Donegal but a well deserved win from Fermanagh's point of view."

And while Durcan knows all about the Erne boss' footballing philosophy given the Fermanagh's man involvement in Jim McGuinness' 2012 All-Ireland winning side, in addition to playing in the first year of Gallagher's Donegal reign, the goalkeeper cautions that the hosts could attempt to unhinge the visitors with some surprise tactical ploys.

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