Durcan's Donegal future in doubt as he plans move abroad
Published 11/08/2015 | 02:30
Paul Durcan has emerged as a major doubt for Donegal in 2016 as he finalises plans to travel to the Middle East.
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher is understood to be planning to be without his All-Star goalkeeper for much of next season as he prepares to move to Qatar where his wife is taking up a new post.
But it's unclear whether Durcan will be back in time to play in next year's championship.
Gallagher has said that the 32-year-old, who now plays his club football with Ballyboden-St Enda's in Dublin, has not ruled out a return next summer.
Durcan has had another very strong season for Donegal, making key saves in all four Ulster Championship matches and his loss to the county would be hugely significant.
He didn't play in all of Donegal's league games after picking up an injury against Dublin and Michael Boyle was a very accomplished replacement.
But Boyle opted to travel to Boston for the summer prior to the Ulster semi-final against Derry and Mark McGinley stepped up to become the reserve goalkeeper.
Inevitably, there will be much speculation about the futures of a number of Donegal players in the weeks and months ahead but after Saturday's defeat to Mayo Gallagher called for players to take their time before making any decision.
After last year's All-Ireland final only Rory Kavanagh retired but, a year on, the potential for more to go is perhaps greater.
Donegal had three 21-year-olds in their starting team against Mayo - Ryan McHugh, Hugh McFadden and Odhran MacNiallais - while Patrick McBrearty has only recently turned 22.
Captain Michael Murphy, Paddy McGrath and Mark McHugh, all members of the 2010 U-21 team that reached an All-Ireland final, are in the 25-26 bracket but the majority of the team will be 30 or more in 2016 if they remain on.
Neil Gallagher, Eamon McGee, Christy Toye and Colm McFadden, like Durcan, are 32, Karl Lacey is 31, while Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn are 29.
Lacey has completed a master's in sports performance in University of Limerick and to find work in that area it may require him to travel in the future, putting his Donegal career in some doubt too.
Anthony Thompson, wing-back on the 2012 All-Ireland-winning team, commuted from the UK, where he is based for work, for much of this year and he may be forced to review his future too if that situation develops again in 2016.
Among the other replacements, David Walsh is 33 and hasn't been seeing as much game-time as other years so he too will be weighing up commitment to 2016.
Donegal still have plenty of talent coming through. Their U-21s have been to the last three Ulster finals, losing to eventual All-Ireland champions Tyrone by just a point in this year's final. They lost to Cavan in the 2013 and 2014 finals.
Their minors have also been progressing. In 2014, they won the Ulster title and were beaten by Kerry in the All-Ireland final while this year's team was thought to be even better but after wins over Tyrone and Armagh they were surprisingly beaten in an Ulster semi-final by Derry.
It will be the task of Rory Gallagher, who has another two years remaining, to integrate some of these players into the senior set-up.