When Paul Durcan retired from inter-county football Donegal were left with a big gap to fill between the posts.
Durcan had been part of the panel for almost 14 years and was rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the game.
In the golden period for Donegal football between 2011 and 2014 Durcan was a key member of the squad with his kick-outs proving vital for the way the team played. His experience and presence were two big factors to the success that Donegal had, with many fearing the day he would hang up his boots.
That day did come in 2015 when Durcan decided that he needed to progress his work career and made the decision to move out to Qatar.
This left a difficult void to fill, Durcan had made his senior debut in 2004 and became a regular in the years to follow. An All-Star winner in 2012 he was often viewed as one of the top keepers in the country alongside the likes of Stephen Cluxton and Rory Beggan.
In 2016 under the guidance of Rory Gallagher it was Mark-Anthony McGinley that was given the nod to replace Durcan. In what was two relatively disappointing seasons for Donegal with no silverware the St Michael’s man was often criticised.
When Declan Bonner took charge he admitted that he would be looking at his goal-keeping options and was dealt a difficult blow early on when both Peter Boyle and Danny Rodgers left the panel.
Mark-Anthony McGinley was selected in goal for the first game of the league against Kerry but injury forced him off and he didn’t return to fitness until the Cavan game.
This gave Shaun Patton the opportunity to deputise and he hasn’t looked back since. The St Eunan’s man will now be one of the first names on Bonner’s team sheet and has proved himself to be a more than capable performer.
Kick-outs are a constant talking point in the GAA in the current era. Few teams have been able to avail of the type of restarts that Donegal have so far this year.
Patton’s range of kicking is what makes him stand out from many keepers. His short kicks allow Donegal defenders to take the ball on the run without breaking stride. In the past three games this has been a constant skill that Patton has shown which caused each team confusion in whether to press the kick-out or not.
His long kicks have also been highly impressive with Patton often providing the foil for potential goal chances for Donegal. When he does unleash a drive down the pitch, usually towards Michael Murphy or Hugh McFadden, the runners begin moving as soon as the ball is in the air, creating havoc for opposition defences.
Along with this Patton has proved his shot-stopping abilities are equally as impressive. His right-footed save in the recent game with Down was akin to that of Durcan a few years ago when he made a similar stop from a Martin Penrose drive in an Ulster final against Tyrone.
At just twenty-two Patton is incredibly young in the world of being a senior goalkeeper. This demonstrates how talented he is and also indicates that Donegal may have found the ideal Paul Durcan replacement.Tags: