There were those that felt when Donegal won the Lory Meagher Cup in 2011 that Donegal hurling had conquered its Everest.
There were those that told Ray Durack when he took over from Andrew Wallace as manager in the winter of 2011 that he was mad and that he needed his head examined as they argued a Lory Meagher was about as good as it was going to get for the Donegal caman wielders.
Now, just two years on Durack has guided his charges to a first ever Nicky Rackard Cup title, an Allianz League Division 3 A crown and even more important promotion to Division 2B for the first time in the history of hurling in the county.
“Donegal won a Division Three League years ago, but that was when the leagues were made up differently. But 2B is the highest level we as a county have ever reached,” explained former hurling official Liam Mullin, from Donegal Town, who has followed Donegal hurling for the best part of 70 years.
“It is brilliant. It is even better than winning the Nicky Rackard in Croke Park. Great credit must go to Ray Durack and the players.
“Ray has done a fantastic job and it is a great boost to hurling in the county. They are a fantastic bunch of players who have come up through the ranks and have shown great dedication and pride in themselves and in their county. They love the game and they remind me a lot of the 1992 All- reland winning football team for their dedication and commitment.”
Liam Mullin was not the only former official that was singing Ray Durack and the Donegal players’ praises this week.
Former county chairman and Ulster Council representative who soldiered with the hurlers for years when it was not all that fashionable, Naul McCole, also praised them this week.
“It is a marvellous achievement. They are a special bunch and are more like a club team than a county team.
“Ray has really worked wonders to get them all working together and to get the Burt, Setanta and MacCumhaill’s lads - all the deadliest of rivals - all playing for each other.
“They have really gelled as a team. The bulk of them have been together for a few years now and number of good young lads have come up through the underage.
“ They have put in the work over the last few years and they have reaped their reward for their dedication and we should all be very proud of them. I am really looking forward to them playing in Division 2B. I am confident they will more than hold their own.”
Armagh, Down, Wicklow, Mayo and Meath will provide the opposition for Donegal next year. Donegal replace Fingal, who they beat last Sunday, to book their place at the higher level next year.
But before that there is the matter of the Ulster Senior Championshipo and defending the Nicky Rackard Cup won last June. That defence begins on Saturday week, 26th April, against Roscommon, in Athleague, in a preliminary round tie.