Nathan Curry experienced a quality 2020 as the Armagh captain helped his side reach the Division 3A final while also guiding Middletown to their second senior title in as many years.
The Orchard County just came up short against Donegal and fell against the same opposition in the Nicky Rackard Cup.
Still, Curry was in terrific form in the orange and white and carried that momentum into the club campaign.
His efforts were rewarded on Easter Sunday as the Middletown star picked up Senior Hurler and County Hurler of the Year awards.
Speaking to Jimmy Smyth via zoom for the virtual Armagh GAA Club All-Star Awards ceremony, Curry praised his teammates for their efforts last season.
“It was great to receive both and definitely something I wasn’t expecting, especially with the year that was in it.
A lot of credit would have to go to the players surrounding you at the same time, everybody’s working off the same hymn-sheet really.
The personal accolades just something that goes along with the team effort, that’s the way I would see it anyway”.
Middletown have been the dominant hurling team in Armagh for a few years now and continued their supremacy last year.
They’ve won five of the last six titles and defeated Keady, Derrynoose and Cuchulainns during their run to the crown in 2020.
“We wouldn’t really pay much heed into the likes of two in a row or three in a row or anything like that. I think when the new season comes round, we’ll reset the clock again and we’ll take measure of where we’re at”.
“I think we really enjoyed the brand of hurling we were playing last year. Sylvester (McConnell) and Conzo (Connor McCann), the management team really brought a different dimension to what we normally played with.
We’re looking forward to maybe building on that and see how the season goes, but I don’t think we’ll get too bogged down in how many in a row you’re going for. We’ll reset the clock and we’ll take the season as a new fresh start”.
Club teams in the North are permitted to resume training from Monday the 12th of April while the county teams are due to do the same the following week.
The players have been forced to cope with the ‘new normal’ and it hasn’t been easy according to Curry.
“It’s tough, it’s definitely tough. I think off the back of Christmas, you were coming into January time, players mindsets were probably in a better position.
You’re doing your own gym work at home and maybe you’re getting a chance to go out for a run, with the hope of the inter-county season starting in February.
I think once February came, I think it was the whole nation, we just sort of lost a lot of hope and spirit maybe”.
There’s no doubt a lot of people throughout the country are looking forward to the return of GAA action in the coming months.
Similar to last season, games will be met with excitement for all those involved in the GAA.
“It gave spectators something to look forward to, an odd game at the weekend, a hurling game on a Tuesday night or a football game. It gave something for people to talk about other than Covid.
It just really shows how important the GAA is within the communities, it really is something to be proud of”.
The County action will return first however as Armagh once again go about trying to gain promotion from Division 3A.
They’ve fallen at the final hurdle two years in a row but will hope to make it third time lucky this season.
The league gets under way on the weekend May 15th/16th and Armagh feature in the same division as Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Tyrone.
Curry believes that promotion to Division Two will set his side up well for the championship, and encourage the younger players coming through the ranks.
“There is a lot of youth coming through in Armagh and it’s trying to pull those players through while keeping the experience there. I think the future is bright within Armagh hurling, there’s quite a lot of young, capable players”.
“They will take time to adjust and get up to that standard, but you can definitely see that the talent is there within the clubs.
Within the next number of seasons, I’ve no doubt Armagh’s main aim is to get out of that division, get promoted to a higher division and play a higher quality of hurling.
Again, that will pull more players towards the county set up, it’s just trying to get that right balance of having your experience and pulling your youth through as well”.
The Nicky Rackard Cup begins in June with the opening round clashes being played on the weekend of 26th/27th.
Armagh have had a love/hate relationship with the competition but winning it will once again be on top of their to do list.
“We’re always there or there abouts, unfortunately the last number of times that we’ve got to that final hurdle, for one reason or another we haven’t got over the line.
It’s definitely an itch that a number of players would want to scratch and mark it off and move back up to the Christy Ring.
I think Armagh’s well suited to the Christy Ring standard of hurling and that’s where we were maybe seven years ago, playing at that standard. I think the ultimate goal would be winning a Nicky Rackard championship and make that step up to the christy Ring.
We’ll take the league first of all. The league is quite important, it’s a good steppingstone for going into the championship, if you get a good league campaign under your belt, then we’ll take that into the Nicky Rackard.
The Nicky Rackard is very competitive, where the winners of last year didn’t actually get promoted into the Christy Ring, there’s quite a lot of competition there”.