UGAAWA MERIT AWARD For November 2013

DARRAGH O’HANLON is like good wine, he matures as the season progresses. At least, that is what one may deduce for his timing of winning awards.

Four years ago, the stocky 16-year-old became the youngest winner ever of our Monthly Merit Award for the month of December, after a string of top level performances with Kilcoo in the Ulster Club Minor Football Championship. Now the 20-year-old Darragh has nailed the award for a second time – another late year honour. He gets it for his composure and steel nerves against Crossmaglen in the Ulster Club Senior Championship.

UGAAWA Chairman, John Martin presents Darragh with his prizes.                 Pic: Oliver McVeigh

In the dramatic clash with the Rangers, joiner Darragh rifled over two exceptionally difficult free-kicks in the dying minutes to force a replay. In that replay he again stepped up to the mark to display his free-kicking accuracy as Kilcoo sent the former All-Ireland champions spinning out of the race, after two games that both went to extra time.

Of course, those weren’t the only deeds that made O’Hanlon stand out. His attacking play from half-back set up many scores for his colleagues, particularly, a vital goal for Paul Devlin that all but broke the deadlock. Over the two games he landed seven points, including the final two in each match.

Darragh O'Hanlon displays his UGAAWA November Merit Award.   Picture by Oliver McVeigh.

His discipline also shone as he and a Cross player were booked – “we were only getting to know each other”, cracks Darragh – before the throw-in of the replay. He never saw ‘yellow’ again.

It wasn’t all joy, of course, in November for the Down champions as they lost the semi-final to Ballinderry.

“We were gutted,” he recalls, “but it is very nice to win this award again and it helps a little to ease the pain. Still, I would have loved to win an Ulster medal.”

Kilcoo group with John Martin - parents Tara O'Hanlon, Terry O'Hanlon, Darragh O'Hanlon and Nicole Cunningham. Pic : Oliver McVeigh

Darragh has an array of medals already in his collection and, no doubt, at 20 there are more to come. What he also hopes is to come is a call-up to the Down senior squad. No doubt, James McCartan is taking notice.

At a reception in Quinn’s Corner, O’Hanlon was presented with the award of an engraved Belleek Living vase, an UGAAWA sports voucher and will also receive specially designed silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Garrett Mallon and training gear from O’Neill’s International Sports, along with two tickets and overnight accommodation to the next UGAAWA Banquet.

To win this award, he beat off the challenges of Daniel McKenna (Truagh) and Daniel McMahon (Emyvale), who were instrumental in their clubs’ victories in the Ulster Intermediate and Junior Championship finals, and Michael Murphy who again starred with Glenswilly as they beat Roslea.