If Donegal are victorious on Sunday, many will look back to the final moments against Tyrone when and to a key Paul Durcan save in keeping McGuinness’s men on track.
Many look to the scoring prowess of Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty. Others point to the trojan work done in midfield by Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh. And few games pass by without the mention of Donegal’s tenacious defensive backs. But the shot stopper would have it no other way as his self-deprecating nature is matched only by his sense of humour.
“You do thrive on those situations,” says Durcan of his save from Martin Penrose in the 74th minute, “but at the same time I would be happier if I didn’t have to do it. I suppose a lot of the boys would argue I don’t work that hard. They say I don’t work too hard all the time in training. I think it is a running joke.
“You wouldn’t think I do a lot of running to look at me but I give the boys abuse the other way so it works both ways. The boys (at the back) have been so good in the past while and I haven’t been too busy. In fairness to the lads, the defense has been unbelievable and makes my life a lot easier.”
The team ethos instilled by McGuinness is evident with each player putting personal performances or accolades aside in favour of the team performance. Durcan is no different as he points to the bond between the players as key in the team’s success.
“This group of players are very tight. All the boys get on with each other so well. We are a close knit sort of group. In the past year we have had some great times. We have had a few lows as well.
“Some of the games for instance, the national league against Dublin this year, Dublin walked all over us. Those sort of things bring you together as well. Now we can’t wait to go on and the final is going to be something amazing.”
The Four Masters clubman is keen to place importance on the man whom people said was mad to take over the Donegal reigns. McGuinness stated many warned him against taking the job but has brought them to within 70 minutes of the county’s first All-Ireland in 20 years, and Durcan believes it is the sense of belief he has instilled in the team is key.
“Jim is very good. He is a positive guy and the belief in the team is there. We had no doubt that we were going to win the semi-final and it showed they way the boys went out in the second half and the confidence with which they attacked with. There was no fear there and definitely, we wouldn’t be afraid of anyone.”
The feeling following the semi-final success over Cork was in complete contrast to that after the same stage last year when Dublin pipped them by a point. “It was mentioned a few times (before the Cork game),” he says about the defeat against Dublin.
“The feeling in there that day was one of the worst feelings in my life and the joy after the semi-final against Cork, to come inside the dressing room and see the joy on the boys faces was brilliant. The final has been the only thing in our mind for a while, an amazing month (before the final) and we’re looking forward to it.”