Durcan and Mitchels fuelled by quest for atonement
Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30
Redemption Day beckons for Castlebar Mitchels in the AIB All-Ireland Club football final at Croke Park on Thursday.
Memories of 2014 and defeat to St Vincent's of Dublin have spurred on the Mitchels through several hard-fought games in Mayo, Connacht and, last month, an epic victory over the mighty Crossmaglen Rangers.
Ballyboden St Enda's stand between the Castlebar club and their ambitions to join Crossmolina Deel Rovers (2001) and Ballina Stephenites (2005) as Mayo winners of the Andy Merrigan Cup.
Patrick Durcan, 21, is young in years but is battle-hardened with club and county. He, like everyone else in the Connacht champions' camp, is grateful to return to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.
The talented wing-back, who won the Mayo SFC Player of the Year award for last season, says his team cannot afford to 'freeze' on the big occasion and believes that lessons have been learned from the St Vincent's defeat two years ago.
"Two years ago I don't think we performed to our full potential.
"We thought we had a lot more in us. Thankfully, we've got the chance now this coming Paddy's Day, and we definitely need to up our performance," said Durcan.
That game had a disastrous start for Castlebar as talisman Richie Feeney was sent off for a black-card offence very early in the game.
They also suffered from a stellar performance by Diarmuid Connolly, who was virtually unstoppable, but Durcan considers the bigger damage was done by the Mitchels' own failings.
"On a team basis, I don't think we performed. Our game management wasn't good.
"We were giving away a lot of unforced errors that hadn't previously happened for us to the level that it did in the final.
"That's disappointing, but we've had tough games now, particularly with Crossmaglen and Corofin, so we're definitely well tested now going into this final," he said.
The All-Ireland semi-final against Crossmaglen in Cavan showed the inner steel that has evolved into the Mayo club team who started sluggishly but came through to win a titanic struggle.
"Maybe the first 20 minutes wasn't good viewing, but we battled well. They had won, I think, 15 games by a point in the last 20 years, so to beat them by one point I thought was very, very pleasing," said Durcan.
A second year business student at DCU, Durcan is aware of the quality and resilience required to emerge from a daunting Dublin championship, so he expects Ballyboden to provide formidable opposition to Castlebar.
"I watched the Leinster final when it was live on TV. Ballyboden are a bit like ourselves.
"They're honest. They'll work hard for each other, and they've a resilience about them.
"They've come through some tight games to get here, and I'm not surprised they have got themselves to where they are now," he said.