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17th Feb 2022

Paul Durcan on the evolution of goalkeepers and why you can’t just put a decent outfielder in nets

Lee Costello

“I always wanted to play in goals, and I would have started off as a keeper really.”

Paul Durcan may have retired on the county stage, but the former Donegal keeper is still keeping is safe hands in the sport.

He’s currently a goalkeeping coach with Sligo, who are enjoying a bright start to the National League at the moment, and although he’s still playing with his club.

The role of a goalkeeper is forever-changing, but in recent times, the men between the sticks are expected to be just as good outfield, as they are in nets.

“You have to embrace it, the two guys that are leading the way are Rory Beggan, and Niall Morgan, and I love watching them.

“What they’re doing is something that probably wouldn’t have been in my wheel house, but in fairness to them, they’re very good on the ball, their confidence, and their passing ability is second to none.

“If you can use them to your advantage, then you definitely should. It’s not something we would have been trying back when I was playing, but you never say no.

“If it had of evolved back then, I don’t think I would be marking any forwards to be honest, but possibly would have tried to do more of a bit of a sweeping role, I would always try to do that anyway, but it is an interesting time for keepers.”

With this new component of goalkeeping, becoming a more and more essential part of the game, many believe that the best thing to do is just put a decent outfield player in nets, but Durcan says there is much more to it than that.

“I played outfield for the club at underage and senior level, so I would have played out there a good bit, but I always wanted to play in goals, and I would have started off as a keeper really.

“I think the important thing is, yeah you can have a great outfielder, put him in goals, but retention of ball is key, and kicking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of outfield players.

“Normally its a free-taker who is good off the deck, but you would want him up in the forward line hitting frees, so you need someone who can pick up the kick outs, it’s a major part of keeping, forget what they can bring as an outfield player.

“Obviously shot-stopping isn’t as major a part in GAA goalkeeping, but at the same time it wins you games, and we have seen that, when big saves have won a game, so that can’t be forgot about either.”

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