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Damian Martin - Offaly Goalkeeping Legend.. Lenghty Service To Faithful County
A custodian of immense national repute, Damian Martin first came to prominence as a county netminder for the Offaly minor hurling team in the early 1960's and made his senior debut in the 1964/65 National Hurling League.
During a thirty year club and county hurling career, the Banagher St. Rynaghs goalkeeper started out when Offaly hurling was an absentee from All Ireland and National League honours, yet Damian Martin was rated so highly by hurling scribes in 1971, he was selected as the All Star goalkeeper. Damian was tutoured by St. Rynagh's coach, the fearless and famous, Tony Reddin of Tipperary renown. This was a momentous achievement when Offaly were not expected to sit in the same room as traditional counties with major honours stacked up.
With St. Rynaghs he played a huge part as the club, only formed in 1961 from an amalgamation of Banagher and Cloghan, claimed their first ever Offaly senior hurling championship title in 1965. Teenage Damian, had his first major trophy and little could he have envisaged at that time, that he would be the county custodian, when Offaly would make a giant leap for all counties without a tradition of winning All Ireland senior hurling titles.
The year 1981 is firmly recorded as the great breakthrough year for Offaly hurling and Damian Martin was one of the most inspirational players in that historic Offaly team of 1981. He was now at the ripe old age of thirty five and as 31 counties saluted Offaly’s great victory, they were also acknowledging, that justice was seen to be done for one of hurling's greatest ever goalkeepers. He now had two Leinster senior hurling medals... 1980 and ’81 and addded that precious All Ireland senior hurling medal also in 1981.
St. Rynaghs had already won Leinster senior club titles in 1970 and ’73 and Damian was also part of Leinster’s Railway Cup teams, despite a clutch of great Wexford and Kilkenny goalkeepers competing for the No.1 jersey. Following the heroic deeds of 1981, Offaly hurling was spiraling upwards, but with Kilkenny to contend with, securing Leinster titles was always going to be a major task. The dominance of Kilkenny was again broken in 1984, when in the centenary year of the G.A.A. Offaly would claim their third Leinster title.
With Kilkenny demolished in 1984, after two successive Leinster final defeats, Offaly would be part of the historic All Ireland senior hurling final to be played at Thurles. Cork would be their opponents and would win the Liam McCarthy Cup once again. As 1985 dawned, Damian was now a cool thirty nine years young and still competing for the county No. 1 jersey. An upcoming John Troy would finally grab the custodian job and Offaly would again make a huge statement, as they beat Galway in the All Ireand senior hurling final.
At forty the St. Rynaghs keeper reclaimed the county jersey and Offaly would contest their seventh Leinster senior hurling final in a row. Kilkenny were too good in the provincial decider and after twenty two years wearing the No. 1 Offaly jersey, Damian had set up a huge record for hurling goalkeepers all over Ireland. With a huge reputation in the game, Damian Martin would finally concede, that he had nothing more to prove to himself, his county and his many fans around the hurling world.
Gone was a goalkeeper who was destined to be recorded in the history books alongside the illustrious greats of modern goalkeepers. The many county and national honours accumulated were hugely rewarding, but even without the silverware, the name of St. Rynaghs and Offaly’s Damian Martin, would be inscribed in history books as a testament to his greatness and outstanding lengthy career.
Inter County Roll Of Honour:
All Ireland Senior Hurling X 1: 1981
Leinster Senior Hurling X 3: 1980; 1981; 1984
Railway Cup X 3 1971; 1972; 1979
National Hurling League X 1 1990/91
All Star Award X 1 1971
Club Roll Of Honour:
County Senior Hurling X 13 1965/66/68/69/70/72/73/74/75/76/81/82/87 (sub)
Leinster Senior Club Hurling X 3: 1970/73/82
Derry JF Doody