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Rafferty joins Down roll of honour

By John Campbell

The names of Martin Clarke, Benny Coulter and Daniel Hughes in particular figured prominently during Down’s All-Ireland championship campaign this year.

And among them was left-full-back Damien Rafferty who found himself taking delivery of the prestigious Club Down Player of the Year trophy at a gala celebration banquet over the course of the weekend.

The Newry Shamrocks player has been a key cog in the Down defence for some years now but after battling against injury to eventually make the starting line-up against Donegal in the Ulster Championship opener at Ballybofey, Rafferty has seen been the essence of consistency in the Mourne rearguard.

It was hardly surprising that both Club Down president Maurice Hayes and county board chairman Seamus Walsh paid glowing tributes to the player and to the fundraising endeavours of Club Down which has proved one of the most vibrant bodies with the GAA overall since its inception. Club Down has raised considerable finance to bolster the GAA in the county, particularly in relation to the refurbishment of Pairc Esler Newry.

County chairman Walsh urged all connected with the Down team to sustain their commitment throughout 2011 and predicted that the side “will surely taste success in the short term rather than in the long term.”

And in hailing Rafferty’s input into the side he said: “He has been one of our most consistent players for the past three years or so and no one deserves this Club Down honour more. Damien never plays a bad game and his commitment is tremendous. I have no doubt that he will continue to be a key figure in our defence for some years to come.”

Past winners of the coveted Club Down accolade include Alan Molloy and Daniel Hughes.

Walsh added: “We are living in very stringent times but I have to say that the fundraising momentum within Down has never slackened.

“People are prepared to keep their shoulder to the wheel and it would be wonderful if we could perhaps capture silverware next year.

“It was obviously very frustrating to lose the All-Ireland final by a point but I have no doubt that the squad have already put this behind them as they focus on 2011.”

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