Durcan: Gallagher exit left us stunned
Goalkeeper Paul Durcan has admitted that Donegal's players were blind-sided by the sudden split that has seen Rory Gallagher – Jim McGuinness' former right-hand man – no longer involved in the county's senior management.
"We didn't see it coming," he admitted. "But the lads that Jim has in there now are very good.
"The players have a lot of respect for Rory and it's hard to see him go. But he'll be okay, Rory's very good at what he does and he'll be a big addition to Maxi (Curran) in the U-21s set-up."
Gallagher's decision to become U-21 assistant manager to Curran – who was also involved in their All-Ireland-winning senior management – raised eyebrows, but Durcan (29) said that twist was not a shock.
"Rory's living in Donegal now, he has such a love of the game and he wasn't going to stay out of football for long, so it didn't surprise me at all," he said.
The changes came in the fallout to last summer's shocking drubbing by Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals when Donegal coughed up four goals to the team they had beaten in the 2012 final.
Durcan said that, despite losing the Ulster final to Monaghan, he had no sense beforehand that they were about to implode and still doesn't understand quite what went wrong.
Donegal were without the influential Karl Lacey that day, and Durcan confirmed that his Four Masters club-mate and 2012 Footballer of the Year will still be involved next season.
"I don't know if he'll be back for the McKenna Cup but I'd say he'll be back for the league," he predicted.
After giving the Allianz League short shrift last year, Donegal are expected to use it much more strategically in 2014.
"In 2011 we improved immensely through the league, won Division 2 and it was very beneficial to us," Durcan said.
"We're back in that position again now and will want to get promotion."