It was a hinge moment in last December’s All-Ireland football final. Mayo’s Paddy Durcan, the team’s go-to man marker, had been doing a sterling job on Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny, but mysteriously switched off him before half-time. It then it became clear what had happened when he didn’t reappear after the break.
Kilkenny went on to have a major influence on Dublin’s six-in-a-row victory, but Mayo supporters and neutrals had been denied an absorbing individual tussle.
Speaking at a product launch on Thursday, as brand ambassador for De Facto shaving oil, Durcan recalled that his trouble with a quad injury had begun early in the match.
“Yeah, it was just 3½ minutes in and the first one was just on a change of direction. I wasn’t running at top speed or anything like that, and then the second incident, just before the water break, I was in my full stride then. That was a real pull and it really restricted me.
“You are certainly aware of it but you try and manage it and I tried to manage it as best I could for the last bit of the first half to just get by and not be found out too much, but it certainly limited me and there is no point in saying any different. I was not at near full capacity.”
The final was so close to Christmas that the time just elapsed and a couple of days after it you were into Christmas Day and spent time with family
He is unconvincingly modest about his role up until departure.
“I don’t think necessarily it was my brilliant defending or anything like that. I thought we played the better football in the first half as a team. There wasn’t that much ball coming into him.”
Mayo had enjoyed a decent year’s rebuilding, winning a first Connacht title since 2015, and then reaching the All-Ireland for the first time in three seasons. Durcan remembers the eerie atmosphere of both the record-breaking semi-final victory and the All-Ireland.
“The final then itself, it was a weird one to be playing at that time of the year and to be playing in front of nobody. You are just happy to be playing. The final was so close to Christmas that the time just elapsed and a couple of days after it you were into Christmas Day and spent time with family, so I did not have that much time to think about it.”
There was the disappointment of getting edged out of an All Star, which he probably would have won had the pre-injury trajectory of the All-Ireland final been maintained.
“Look, I won one last year and it was the first one for the club, so it was a massive couple of nights between celebrating that in the clubhouse and stuff – so I certainly wouldn’t belittle it in any capacity. It was great to win.
“I knew I was definitely in contention to win one this year and it would be close, but I wouldn’t have massive complaints either, to be honest with you. I would have loved to have won it and know it was close. To be honest it’s very subjective anyway.”