Burt are chasing a sixth Donegal hurling title in-a-row when the face Sean MacCumhaill’s in the Donegal Senior Hurling Championship final in O’Donnell Park, on Saturday. (Throw-in 3.30 pm)
The Inishowen men may be the aristocrats of Donegal hurling and the reigning champions but Sean McCumhaill’s are the form team.
And on the back of five straight wins, including a four point second round win over Burt, they go into Saturday’s decider as the favourites in the eyes of many.
The final is also a repeat of last year’s final, won by Burt by a point, 2-7 to 0-12.
Eamon McAuley has taken over the manager’s bib from John O’Brien at MacCumhaill Park, and he has honed the Finnsiders’ into a solid looking and well oiled machine.
The challengers are backboned by experienced Donegal seniors Jamesie Donnelly, Lee Henderson, Ciaran Mathewson while Gavin Browne has broken into the Donegal senior team in the last couple of seasons.
This quartet are backed up by All-Ireland U-21C winners Dylan Lafferty, Sean Curran, Conor Griffin and Aaron McCauley. Dual star Marty O’Reilly is also a member of the squad but has seen very little action, other than 20 minutes against Aodh Ruadh and is likely to be held in reserve again this weekend.
As well as Burt, McAuley has also masterminded wins over Aodh Ruadh (2-18 to 1-8), Setanta (0-18 to 0-13) and Buncrana (1-25 to 0-7).
They also had three points to spare at the end of their semi-final meeting with Setanta, the weekend before last. MacCumhaill’s won that game 2-14 to 1-12.
“We are playing well and people say we are favourites because we haven’t lost a game,” says Eamon McAuley.
“This will be our fifth final in seven years, but we have only won one and that was against Setanta in 2010; the three we have lost have been to Burt.
“It is good to be in the final and we are playing well going into the final. But a county final is different and you need to get the breaks and decisions on the day, especially against a team of the experience of Burt.”
Burt lost to MacCumhaill’s, drew with Setanta (2-13 each), and ran out convincing winners over Buncrana (1-15 to 0-7), Aodh Ruadh (4-9 to 1-8) and St Eunan’s (3-11 to 1-9) in the league format of the championship.
Former Limerick county goalkeeper, Tom Hennessy, coach to Ray Durack, last season has taken over the manager’s role at Hibernian Park.
In the semi-final they overcame, St Eunan’s by three points, 3-13 to 3-10.
“We played a good St Eunan’s side in the semi-final and just about shaded the result. But it was good to come through such a tight game and hopefully it will stand to us in the final,” Hennessy told the Democrat.
“They (MacCumhaill’s) beat us fair and square in the group game and while we may have been missing a few players we have no complaints.
“They were the better team and were worthy winners and we had no complaints afterwards.
“But while we have had to deal with a large number of games in both football and hurling since that game I feel we are in a better position and playing better than we were the last day we met them.”
The Burt side is laced with household names in the Donegal game with Padraig Doherty, Marty McGrath, Joe Boyle, Benny Harrigan, Christopher McDermott, Stephen Gillespie, Ronan and Enda McDermott all members of the current Donegal senior squad.
And when you add in former county stars Ciaran Dowds, Niall Campbell and Mickey McCann you have a pretty experienced and potent force.
County minors Ciaran Finn and Sean Harkin have stepped up from underage and have nailed down regular places in the Burt starting 15.
Padraig Doherty missed Burt’s semi-final win over St Eunan’s and is in a race against the clock to be fit for Saturday.
Eamon McAuley has reported a clean bill of health at MacCumhaill Park.
Verdict: Sean MacCumhaill’s.