RAY Durack says his Donegal hurlers will be on the march next year in search of another Nicky Rackard Cup success.
The county’s hurlers were honoured on Friday night at the annual Donegal GAA awards night in the Abbey Hotel after a historic year in 2013, which saw them win the Nicky Rackard Cup for the first time.
Tipperary star Pádraic Maher was the special guest on the night as the hurlers took centre stage on Donegal GAA’s big night. Durack’s men defeated Roscommon in a thrilling Croke Park final, winning by 3-20 to 3-16, but they will remain in the third tier next year. However, Durack says his men are gunning to retain the title.
“We have a very young squad here and we’ll keep at it to try and build on the success of this year,” he said.
“We’ll be going out to try and bring the Nicky Rackard Cup back to Donegal again in 2014.”
Having been denied the chance to move into the Christy Ring competition – the second tier of hurling – Donegal will be back in the mix for Nicky Rackard honours in 2014. Durack will again manage the side and the Portuma native believes his side will have renewed hunger when the campaign comes around.
He said: “Unfortunately we didn’t get promoted to the Christy Ring Cup, but we’ll be going next year to get the Nicky Rackard Cup back to Donegal so we can make the step up. That’s what the boys want – the chance to progress.”
Setanta’s Danny Cullen was named as the Donegal Hurler of the Year having been named as the Nicky Rackard Player of the Tournament in October.
Durack thanked the clubs who helped provide facilities, the County Board (and in particular Grace Boyle and Frankie Doherty), his backroom team of Ardal McDermott, Adrian Gaffney, Anthony Coyle and Colm O’Neill, as well as the wives and girlfriends.
Paying tribute to his 29-man panel, Durack said: “These are the guys who won it. We were down to fourteen men with a half-an-hour to play, but they knuckled down and they dug deep.
“They showed great pride in the jersey, they showed great pride in themselves and they showed great pride in their county. Personally, I want to thank these fellows for what they did for Donegal hurling.”
Special guest Maher, an All-Ireland winner with Tipp and a double All-Star, made a flying visit to Donegal, making the trip back to Thurles after the function in order to make training on Saturday morning at 9 o’clock.
Maher urged Donegal’s hurlers to take the lead in moving the county on in the sport.
“The only way to do that is with the senior team taking control and winning as much as you can,” he said.
“That means going out and winning the Nicky Rackard again next year and maybe going out and getting promoted from Division 3. That’s how you put pressure on everyone else to take up hurling. It’s up to you to lead young lads in.”
Around 200 guests attended Friday’s function, with the County Chairman Seán Dunnion also giving an address in which he put a strong emphasis on thanking the GAA volunteers around the county.
Seán Perry was an efficient MC for the function, with presentations made by Con O’Donnell, Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh and Sean Dunnion.
2013 DONEGAL GAA AWARD WINNERS
Gaeltacht Club of Year: Naomh Naille
Non Gaeltacht Club of Year: Baile na nGalloglach
Gradam do Sheirbhísí Cultúrtha: Eileen McLaughlin (Naomh Padraig Muff)
Grounds of the Year Award: Carn Domhnaigh
Appreciation Award: Tony Doherty (Naomh Muire)
Handballer of the Year: Dave Mulhern (Naomh Conaill)
Referee of the Year: Martin Coll (Gaoth Dobhair)
Junior Club of the Year: Baile na nGalloglach
Intermediate Club of the Year: Naomh Muire
Senior Club of the Year: Gleann tSúilí
Lady Footballer of the Year: Karen Guthrie (Gleann Fhinne)
Hurler of the Year: Danny Cullen (Setanta)
Footballer of the Year: Michael Murphy (Gleann tSuili)