Tyrone's Damian Casey pleasantly surprised by inclusion in Champions 15 2019
TYRONE stalwart Damian Casey said it was a pleasant surprise to find himself on the Champions 15 team for 2019, but celebrations were tempered due to his club commitments with Eoghan Ruadh.
Casey was one of five Ulster players to be named on the GAA's selection of the best hurlers from the summer's Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher campaigns. Along with the Dungannon man, Down's Caolan Taggart and Dáithí Sands were selected for their roles in the Ards men's run to the Christy Ring final, where they were defeated by Meath.
Armagh goalkeeper Simon Doherty got the nod for his performances between the sticks on the way to the Orchard county's Nicky Rackard final loss to Sligo, while Derry forward Sé McGuigan was included after the Oak Leafs reached the last four of the Christy Ring.
Casey said that, due to the strength of competition and Tyrone's exit at the semi-final stages of the Nicky Rackard competition, this wasn't an award he had been banking on: “I was saying to the boys there over the weekend, it certainly wasn't one I was expecting like. I was a bit surprised to get notified on the Friday that I had won it, so it was a great honour.
“Normally, there's a Champions 15 for each competition – Meagher, Rackard and Ring – but, this year, there were 45 nominees for 15 positions and we never got to the final of the Nicky Rickard, we got beat by Armagh in the semi-finals, so I just didn't expect it, really.”
In terms of Tyrone's targets for 2020, they are the same as they ever were: “We know we've got to target the National League, initially,” Casey added.
“We've hit the crossbar a few times with the National League and you'd like to get promoted into Division Two to see where we're at.
“You look at the Nicky Rackard, from we won it in 2014 we haven't got back to a final, we've probably been in the semis every year from then, so I'd like to get back into the final and get another rattle at it.”
Casey will be expected to play a big role for Eoghan Ruadh in this Saturday's Ulster Club IHC final against Naomh Éanna, and he admits this put the reins on the celebrations in Dublin on Friday night.
“It was probably a relatively quiet night compared to other years, with the Ulster final coming up, but it was a great night, so I'm not complaining about that,” he said.
“We're massively looking forward to it. It's a first ever [Ulster] final for the club. We can't let the occasion get the better of us, we've to go out and play it as if it's just another game, but I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.
“In training this week we'll be keeping it sharp and, please God, we compete come Saturday evening.”
Also on Friday night, Paddy Purcell of Laois was awarded the Joe McDonagh Cup Player-of-the-Year gong for his role in the O'Moore county's victory in the competition and their subsequent run to the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals.
Champion 15 Team 2019: Simon Doherty (Armagh, Nicky Rackard); Caolan Taggart (Down, Christy Ring), Keith Keoghan (Meath, Christy Ring), Enda Moreton (Leitrim, Lory Meagher); James Weir (Sligo, Nicky Rackard), James Glancy (Leitrim, Lory Meagher), John Henderson (Wicklow, Christy Ring); Keith Raymond (Sligo, Nicky Rackard), Seán Geraghty (Meath, Christy Ring); Jack Regan (Meath, Christy Ring), Gerard O'Kelly Lynch (Sligo, Nicky Rackard), Damian Casey (Tyrone, Nicky Rackard); Dáithí Sands (Down, Christy Ring), Ronan Crowley (Lancashire, Lory Meagher), Sé McGuigan (Derry, Christy Ring)
Player of the Year
Joe McDonagh Cup
Paddy Purcell (Laois)
Christy Ring Cup
Jack Regan (Meath)
Nicky Rackard Cup
Keith Raymond (Sligo)
Lory Meagher Cup
Ronan Crowley (Lancashire)