By Harry Walsh
DONEGAL hurlers are on the look out for a new manager following confirmation this week that Ray Durack has decided to step down.
Durack, who is a former county hurler and the current Burt manager, relayed his decision to his players after last weekend’s defeat at the hands of Armagh in the Athletic Grounds.
Durack guided Donegal to Nicky Rackard Cup success in 2013 and followed it up the following year by steering his side into Division 2B of the National Hurling League.
This year they retained their place in Division 2B, beating Tyrone in a relegation play-off, as well as reaching the Nicky Rackard Cup semi final. He’ll stay at the helm for next month’s Ulster Championship meeting with Derry.
Durack and his players have brought Donegal to the highest level in the National Hurling League that the county has ever achieved and he feels that now they should to look outside the county for a coach.
“It’s something the County Board should definitely look at – trying to get in a trainer from outside the county. For all the years I’ve been involved it’s been ex-players like Mickey McCann, Ardel McDermott and myself doing all the fitness work and training with the boys.
“Earlier this year Eoin Cadogan was been appointed as strength and conditioning coach to the Armagh hurlers and you could see that in their play against us last Saturday. While we were probably the fitter team, physically, they were that bit stronger and it told in the end,” he said.
Cadogen linked up with manager Sylvester McConnell and his assistant Pádraig O’Connor and his role with Armagh runs alongside his playing career with the Cork football panel.
“He’s going out with an Armagh girl and he brings with him a different outlook and maybe that’s what the lads need at this stage of their careers.
“Whoever takes over with have no bother with them. I’ve nothing but admiration and praise for each and every one of the players. They represented their county with pride and always gave one hundred per cent,” he said.
Reflecting back of last weekend’s 1-19 to 1-12 defeat at the Athletic Grounds, Durack felt that his players were simply out-muscled.
“They’re no world beaters by any stretch of the imagination. We went at them more in the second half and got back to within four points of them before my old nemesis – the referee – played his part.
“Armagh’s Ryan Gaffney scored eight points, all from frees, and I felt that some of them were soft to say the least. We were pulled up for over-carrying while they could have taken the sliotar home with them.
“Maybe, after four years, now is the time to freshen things up a bit with a new face. He’ll inherit a good panel of players whoever that may be,” Durack said.
When the Galway native first took on the role in January 2012, Donegal were fighting against relegation from Division 3B.
“We beat Sligo to avoid relegation that year before Louth came to Letterkenny and hammered us in the Nicky Rackard Cup semi final. The following year we got to the league final and just missed out on promotion and won the Nicky Rackard.
“Last year we won the league and got promotion while this year we competed well in Division 2B and reached the semi final of the Nicky Rackard – not a bad record,” he mused.
The current Burt manager, Durack said that he’s a ‘glutton for punishment’.
“I love the sport. Donegal hurling is in a good spot at the moment. There’s a skilful, young, talented pool of players in the county and the new manager will be taking on a good – the vast majority of whom are aged between 19 and 26 years.
“It’s just that, maybe, we might need to put n place a strength and conditioning coach to help bulk up what is a fast, lightweight team. Technically we were as good as Armagh last Saturday it’s just that we were too easily knocked off the ball,” he sighed.
The players and management alike will take a break for a week or two before starting their preparations ahead of the Ulster Championship meeting with Derry.
“We’ll regroup in a couple of weeks time and give Derry a rattle and see what happens,” he said.