it was the most enjoyable trip to Dublin this year on Friday night. The result was already decided and while we would have hoped that Donegal would have had a few more points (All-Stars) on the board, it was a night to remember for the county’s GAA fraternity.
They turned out in very big numbers at the Convention Centre to honour the footballers and hurlers who picked up awards and there was the crowning moment when Karl Lacey was announced as the Footballer of the Year for 2012 - a fitting finale.
Lacey’s elevation to being named the top footballer in Ireland alongside picking up his fourth All-Star award is just reward for a remarkable talent, who started life as a corner-back but now has become the complete footballer under Jim McGuinness. His run forward and pass in the lead-up to the first goal by Michael Murphy in the All-Ireland final was just sheer class; his ‘shimmy’ to lose Barry Moran early in the run is something that you can watch time and time again.
Lacey pipped Colm McFadden and Frank McGlynn for the top award. The other two had already picked up two individual awards with Colm named as Irish News Player of the Year and Frank picking up the The Star Player of the Year last weekend, which just shows how close the selection process must have been.
The eight footballer All-Stars as well as two Nicky Rackard awards meant that Donegal’s name was kept flying high above all others throughout out the night. Not even the acceptance interview of Henry Shefflin when he was announced as the winner of the Hurler of the Year award went anywhere close to matching what was the ‘Donegal Dominance in Dublin’.
With the football All-Star team being announced on Thursday morning, there was no suspense and that is why we were able to enjoy the night from start to finish. Most of the talk before and after the event was not only about the eight Donegal winners, but the fact that Eamonn McGee and Rory Kavanagh had lost out in the selection process.
There will always be arguments and discussion around the team selected every year, but the fact that Donegal got eight on the final team underlines the respect the team have gained in such a short time. The ones to lose out could just as easily have made the team, which augurs well for Donegal going forward.
Indeed, talking to players like Paddy McGrath and Michael Murphy, you get the impression that they are itching to get back training, ready to improve even more and even more hungry than ever for further success.
The profile which these players and the management team under Jim McGuinness have achieved for the county of Donegal is something that we should be extremely grateful and proud of.
To watch the way they carried themselves at the function; their willingness to stop and talk to everybody; to pose for photographs, showed them as true ambassadors of Donegal.
There was a very large Donegal contingent in the 1,400 attendance, among the former Donegal manager, Brian McEniff, just one day after having his back surgery. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said.
It was the same for many more. On a night of nights, bagging a record haul of All-Stars was something special. There will be plenty of other awards to be handed out before the end of the year with the Ulster GAA Writers’ banquet in the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran, on Friday, 7th December and the Donegal Banquet the following night, 8th December, in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny.
But for now we can languish in All-Star history being made by the greatest ever group of footballers to represent the county.