Fury as re-draw forces Rackard finalists into preliminary round face-off
VICTORY over Fingal at the weekend earned Donegal's hurlers their latest prize – promotion to Division 2A – but manager Ray Durack has lambasted the re-organisation of the Nicky Rackard Cup to their cost.
"We're just a box-ticking exercise for the GAA," he said of having to line out in the preliminary round of the cup competition on Saturday week, even though they are the defending champions.
"We were meant to be at home, to Roscommon, on May 3, but because Fingal got back into it they re-drew the draw and now we're away to Roscommon in a preliminary round. At this stage nothing surprises me."
Congress passed a motion to allow Fingal into the competition, resulting in the re-drawn schedule.
A GAA spokesman said yesterday it is "just the luck of the draw" that sees both of last year's finalists involved in the preliminary round.
Winning hurling's third-tier Cup last year was the biggest achievement yet for Durack's team, who have steadily climbed the lower ranks of league and championship in recent years.
They lost two Lory Meagher finals (2009 and 2010) before winning hurling's fourth-tier Cup in 2011 but their Nicky Rackard victory in Croke Park last year was their greatest feat.
Under this year's new format, the winners of that competition will get the opportunity to join the 2015 Christy Ring through a promotion play-off, but last year there was no such chance to move up.
"That is what we'll be aiming for now," said Durack, a Portumna native who has been living in Donegal for 23 years.
"Donegal hurling has been long enough in the basement but these fellas have worked very hard and made steady progress in the last three years.
"Everyone has been pitching together, there are U-16 and U-17 development squads now, there's good minor set-up now, I'm involved with the county U-21s as well and have eight or nine of them in the senior panel."
Team captain Joe Boyle (a first cousin of Rory Kavanagh), Sean McVeigh, Jamesie Donnelly, Danny Cullen, Lee Henderson and Kevin Campbell are the county's main men. Proof of Donegal's growing ambitions is their decision to re-enter the Ulster SHC this summer, where they're lined up to meet Down.
"It's ages since we were in the Ulster Championship but I've been pushing for it because I knew last year that we were competitive enough and ready for it," Durack said.