All-Ireland Championship: Success academic for Donegal star Lacey
When UUJ won the Sigerson Cup in 2008, Karl Lacey not only emerged as the team’s outstanding player but was voted Player of the Tournament.
Lacey, regarded as one of the best man-markers in the country, has since embellished his career in Donegal’s colours and the team’s chances of success against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday could well hinge on just how effective the 26-year-old utility player proves to be.
Instead of finding himself in the left-full-back berth which he has occupied with such distinction for Donegal for so many years, the Four Masters clubman will be located in his comparatively new role of centre-half-back where he has been afforded more freedom to act as a defensive general.
After years of going head-to-head with some of the best corner-forwards in Ulster including Benny Coulter, Oisin McConville and Peter Canavan, Lacey now finds himself pulling the strings of a defensive framework that is largely responsible for Donegal’s renaissance.
Lacey, who won the Quinn Insurance Ulster GAA Writers Association July monthly merit award following five-star performances against Derry and Kildare, will not only oversee operations at the back,but will also help to trigger Donegal’s counter-attacking machinery that has been so effective to date.
UUJ club president John Farrell is among those who believe that Lacey’s influence in the Donegal defence is profound.
“Karl is a superb player who gave magnificent service to UUJ,” said Farrell.
“It does not surprise me in the least that he is doing so well with Donegal. He is versatile and very alert, the kind of player who thrives when the pressure is on.”
Lacey played in a UUJ side that included Andy Moran who was one of Mayo’s best players against Kerry in last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Also in that UUJ side of three years ago were several current inter-county stars such as Mark Lynch (Derry), Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone), Paddy Cunningham (Antrim) and Darren Hughes (Monaghan).
“Most of the players who were in that 2008 UUJ line-up went on to make it at senior county standard and this really underlines the correlation there can be between success at the Higher Education level and in the inter-county sphere,” stresses Farrell.
Thomas McGinley, who will be among the Donegal substitutes on Sunday, is about to begin his second year of studies at UUJ.
“We are delighted to have this further link with the Donegal team and of course their manager Jim McGuinness played in our Sigerson Cup winning side of 2001 so you could say there is a very healthy UUJ influence within the side,” smiles Farrell.
“Certainly, a number of the other Donegal players have attended different institutions and having honed their talents in the Higher Education arena I have no doubt that the team will prove worthy ambassadors for Ulster in Croke Park on Sunday.”