BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MICHAEL Boyle has always maintained that the key to being the replacement goalkeeper is always being at the ready.
Rarely, though, has the chance come as soon as it did for the Termon man on Saturday night.
When a stray leg caught the head of Paul Durcan in the move that led to Cormac Costello’s fifth-minute goal for Dublin, team doctor Kevin Moran and physio Dermot Simpson raced on.
Moran signalled to the bench that Durcan’s night was over almost before it had begun, a cut close to his eye that required stitching seeing him leave the action and Boyle called to arms.
“It’s nice to get in there, but not in those kind of circumstances – you don’t want to see any of your team-mates getting hurt,” Boyle said.
Saturday’s was Boyle’s 38th appearance for Donegal, but his first in the National League since the away loss at Kildare in March 2010. It was also his first run-out at Croke Park since the traumatic All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Cork in 2009.
Boyle said: “It’s everybody’s dream to get to play at Croke Park and I was delighted to get the opportunity, but I’m obviously disappointed to have lost the game.
“We started the League well against Derry. We actually played well for long spells against Dublin, but it’s disappointing to lose because those two points could have been very valuable. They’d have set us up nicely and maybe meant that we could start to look further afield.”
Boyle had a spell as the number 1 in his debut year, 2005, and again in 2009, but has found game-time limited in recent years, playing just two Dr McKenna Cup games during Jim McGuinness’s reign.
Boyle said: “It’s nice to get the opportunity after putting in a lot of work on the training ground. It’s hard find your feet in that situation if you don’t get that much game time.
“In fairness, Rory has been doing a lot of work with the goalkeepers. He’s very interested in what the goalkeepers have to bring to the table because it’s a major position now in the game.
“Mark Anthony (McGinley) is there now too so there are three goalkeepers at the minute. Competition is very high. Even to get ahead of Mark and get in as a sub is good. To get the game time will hopefully bring the level up a bit.”
Boyle can be satisfied with his night’s work, too, and there was little he could’ve done to stop Jack McCaffrey’s wonderful goal, Dublin’s second, in the 53rd minute.
He said: “We had gone up the field. They caught us on the hop. Jack McCaffrey was fresh at that stage and was able to break through the line. He put it away well in fairness – it was a great strike.
“It was a tough game at the end up. The Dubs were really up for it. Probably after last summer they had the bit between their teeth tonight. They upped the intensity big time.”
Boyle was forced into action by Dublin midfielder Denis Bastick late in the first half, but the goalkeeper got down at full stretch to his right-hand side to make a save, although Dean Rock popped the subsequent ’45 over the bar.
Ever the perfectionist, Boyle said: “I thought that I could have done a wee bit better with that one down low. It was coming from far out and not at much speed. They got a score from it. At the same time, I suppose it went alright for me.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.