Anthony Cunningham pays tribute to ‘unique character’ Niall Donohue
Galway hurler was speaking to his manager less than 24 hours before his untimely passing
Niall Donoghue passed away on Wednesday evening. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Cunningham, who managed the player for two years at under-21 as well as the past two years at senior level, said that he had only been speaking to the player the night before he was found dead at his home in Kilbeacanty. Niall Donohue would have been 23 today.
“I was talking to him on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before he died. We chatted about next year’s league matches and were looking forward to going back training in early November. He was in tremendous form, getting ready for the pre-season.
“It’s a tragic, awful loss for the club and a rural community that is really tight-knit and supportive of each other.
“Kilbeacanty is an intermediate club with not many making the county team over the years. Niall was their pride and joy but he never looked for congratulation. He was always a jolly guy, who loved life and hurling was number one in his life. He had a great capacity to train and do work on his own but he also had great hurling ability as well as physical power and a passion for the game.”
Niall Donohue had come to prominence as a county minor and was wing back on the team unlucky to lose to a late Kilkenny goal in the 2008 All-Ireland final. Under Cunningham’s management he played in two under-21 All-Ireland finals, losing in 2010 to Tipperary and comfortably defeating Dublin a year later when Donohue gave a fine display at full back.
Although his early senior career was at right wing back where he was nominated for a 2012 All Star, it was felt that in the long term he would be a strong candidate for the number three jersey.
“That was one of the things we talked about,” according to Cunningham, “giving him plenty of experience at full back in the new year. He had all of the credentials and was definitely being targeted for that role.
“He was a unique character. Niall didn’t have a lot to say but he was very witty and got on well with everyone on the team. He just loved to play. In his hurling he was a free spirit and loved the challenge, the battle. He had tremendous pace and in the agility tests he was far ahead of the panel and when we measured strength, it was the same.
“Niall’s short life I hope will inspire us in 2014 and beyond. His unique character will continue to be a presence in our dressing-room.”