After a marathon five days in The Gleneagles Hotel, Killarney, Donegal added two new Irish titles to their recent collection of national victories.
Two years ago it was the men’s and ladies’ team titles, last year the Sharkey siblings emerged with the singles titles in both disciplines, and this year culminated in triumph for the Tír Chonaill cueists in two more categories.
In the over-60’s category, Donegal’s representative, Davy McGurn, came through a field of over fifty players to claim the national title with an assured 6-3 victory over Cork stalwart, Davy Byrne, in the final. Indeed, Davy was also a lynchpin of the over-50’s team and the men’s Intermediate team.
At the other end of the men’s age spectrum, the Donegal under 23 team of Ronan Whyte, Joe Chambers, Sean Devenney, and Daniel McHugh, were in imperious form during the round-robin stages, topping their group of seven teams without much resistance.
Things were to get much tougher in the knockout section; a hard-earned 5-3 victory over Dublin in the semi-finals rewarded them with the ultimate test against unbeaten Mayo in the final. The match ebbed and flowed, leading almost inevitably to a final frame decider.
Ardara’s Ronan Whyte held his nerve to take out a gutsy finish and spark jubilant celebrations among the players and the large contingent of Donegal spectators.
Whilst there were no other titles for Donegal, the ladies’ team came up agonisingly short, with the deciding frame in their final going down to the very last ball. Kildare’s Lisa Dart was the one to get the all-important black, though, leaving Mini Morris – and her team mates, Helena Melly and Tina Reaney, crestfallen.
Among many standout performances by the massive Donegal contingent – almost 60 players in total – Chris McAnaw’s warrants special mention. From a field of circa four hundred players in the Junior section, Chris made it all the way to the last four. Two years ago – in a similarly massive field – he actually progressed to the All-Ireland final.
After leaving home last Tuesday, the Donegal players made the long trek home almost a week later, some jubilant, some disappointed, many tired and jaded, but all proud of having represented their county on the national stage.