Martin Breheny: Niall Donohue - a star of the present and future
NOBODY epitomised the swashbuckling qualities which underpinned Galway’s exciting adventure in the 2012 All-Ireland senior hurling championship better than Niall Donohue.
Ultimately, Galway failed to win the title, beaten in a replay by Kilkenny, whom they had earlier demolished with a remarkable performance in the Leinster final before drawing in the All-Ireland final.
In his debut season as a senior, Niall slotted neatly into new and more demanding surroundings, using his vast array of skills as a powerful knitting agent in the Galway defence. He liked to go forward too as he showed in the drawn All-Ireland final when he landed a spectacular point.
It came as no surprise to anybody who knew the young Kilbeacanty man that he fitted in so comfortably at the highest level. His talents were obvious from an early age as he progressed through the ranks, eventually taking his place on the Galway minor team.
While he suffered the disappointment of being on the losing side against Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland minor final, it was evident that a long career lay ahead. His progressed to U-21 level, winning an all-Ireland title in 2011. Indeed, his performance at full-back in the final against Dublin was one of the main driving forces behind Galway’s success.
Promotion to the senior side followed quickly. Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham slotted him into the side as part of a major squad overhaul last year and was rewarded with a series of excellent performances which earned Niall an All Stars nomination.
Widely regarded as one of the best defensive talents to emerge in Galway for many years, most supporters saw him as a player with a huge future. Strong, quick and brave, he could play in a variety of positions, an invaluable quality in any era but even more so in the modern age of fluid interchanging.
His tragic death has left a huge void in Galway hurling and numbed the supporters who had taken him to their hearts as a player of the highest quality.