Gartland hails squad depth of Nickey Rackard champions


CONOR Gartland hailed the strength of the Donegal hurling squad as they won the Nickey Rackard Cup on Sunday.

You’ll often hear managers and pundits alike saying it is a 20-man game but that was never more evident than in the final at the weekend.

Donegal got a huge contribution from their five subs, and that was without using Declan Coulter who was struggling with injury.

Mayo couldn’t match Donegal’s bench power and that was crucial in the end.

“It was massive,” Gartland affirmed after the match.

“I said it in every interview I did in the lead-up to the final that I thought our bench was going to be what tips the scale.

“Peter Kelly is only 19 but didn’t look a bit out of place, Oisin Grant was doing what he did all year and threw himself about.

“It was great to see Ronan McDermott back in and big Josh (Cronolly McGee) – oh my God, what a game he had. What a man.

“You need a strong bench and we have that.”

Gartland admitted that things weren’t looking good at half time as they were four points down but there was a calmness in the dressing room and again on the pitch in the second half as they got the result they craved.

“We really dug it out when the chips were down and as Mickey (McCann) said at half time, the only score that matters is the one at full time when the whistle blows.

“I’m so proud of all those boys for the way we drove on at the end.

“For a lot of our lads, it wasn’t our day and that happens but we really showed the character of the team with how we dug it back out when we needed to.

“We felt we were the better conditioned team and we felt if we could bring it down the stretch that we would have it in the legs.”

Gartland is the youngest captain in the country in either hurling or football and he was thrilled to climb the Hogan Stand steps and collect the trophy from GAA President Jarlath Burns.

“It was just everything I imagined and more. It was great to collect the trophy from a proper gentleman in Jarlath.

“He’s a great man to drive the GAA forward.”

Donegal will step up to the third tier of hurling next year and Gartland feels they have shown that they have the battling qualities that they will need.

“I think we will be fit to hold our own if we can drive on now after that. You can coach everything hurling related but you can’t coach character like that.

“When the chips were down we came out swinging.”

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