Irish News Ulster GAA All-Stars: Damian Casey is Irish News readers' overwhelming choice for Hurling Player of the Year

Damian Casey's father Sean receives the Hurling Player of the Year award from Ulster GAA President Ciaran McLaughlin. Also pictured is Damian's Tyrone team-mate and Irish News All-Star winner Chris Kearns Picture: Hugh Russell

Hurling Player of the Year

THE reaction inside the Ulster Hall told its own story when the late Damian Casey was named Hurling Player of the Year at last Friday’s Irish News Ulster All-Star awards, receiving a record number of votes from Irish News readers.

Rising to their feet, everybody inside the famous old venue joined in a sustained, emotional standing ovation in recognition of the Tyrone and Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon star who passed away on June 17 – just weeks after helping the Red Hands claim the Nicky Rackard Cup. 

Casey received a record number of votes from Irish News readers for a player of the year award, an indication of the esteem in which he was held across the board after a life dedicated to the caman code. 

Tributes continue to pour forth about the kind of man Damian Casey was, while performances on the field – and his incredible numbers – speak for themselves. 

After making his debut in 2012 at just 18, he would never miss a game for the Red Hands. For a significant period in the middle of that Casey was based in Liverpool, while work would take him elsewhere on occasion too. 

Yet his commitment to the cause ensured he was always there, ready to lead the fight. His maiden campaign brought the Lory Meagher Cup to Tyrone, the county’s first Nicky Rackard following two years down the line with Casey as captain. 

May’s Nicky Rackard Cup final victory over Roscommon at Croke Park was Casey’s 101st consecutive appearance for the Red Hands over League and Championship. 

He embellished the occasion, a crowning moment in a fantastic career, with a 14-point haul as Tyrone swept to victory. 

That took his overall tally to 39-908 in county colours – a remarkable average return of over 10 points per game. 

Yet for those who had the privilege to share the journey with him, both on and off the field, Damian Casey’s contribution was so much more.

“I have a lot of people to thank, but at the top of the list is Damian,” said Sean Casey as he accepted the Hurling Player of the Year award on his son’s behalf last week. 

“The lad never, ever gave up – he was a family lad, there was nothing that he wouldn’t do for anybody. He has left hurling in Tyrone, and hopefully further afield, in a much, much better place.”

And those sentiments were echoed by another Red Hand stalwart, Chris Kearns, as he paid tribute to a man whose influence will never be forgotten. 

“We’ll try and keep this going in Tyrone next year,” he said.

“It won’t be easy, Division Two, Christy Ring, we’ve lost out leader. As Sean said to me, I didn’t know I raised a king. That’s what he raised… he raised a king.” 
•  The Irish News would like acknowledge the exceptional work done by the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in bringing loved ones home. To support the fantastic work the charity does The Irish News has donated £5,000 in Damian’s memory.