Setanta celebrate winning Donegal hurling title. Photo Geraldine Diver
Sizzling Setanta showed all their championship craft and experience as they deservedly defeated a youthful St Eunan’s to claim their first championship victory since 2008.
St Eunan’s 1-8
And their big players walked tall when it really mattered and none more so than the Coulter/Cullen connection as Danny Cullen and his brother-in-law Declan Coulter firmly stamped their class on this feisty affair.
St Eunan’s should not be downhearted as they fielded eight players who were 21 or under. They had a great start and led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 11 minutes.
But once Setanta settled, there was a kind of inevitability about the outcome.
Kevin Campbell, who came into the game with flu, hit some fine frees to keep them in touch in the first half.
But this game was really decided when the sweet striking Coulter moved out from the full-forward line in the third quarter.
The winners led by 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time but four quick fire points in as many minutes pushed them clear before Colm Melaugh whipped the killer goal in the 38th minute.
St Eunan’s settled swiftly and had a point on the board within 15 seconds through Kevin Meehan after Colm Flood was fouled.
That pattern of early dominance continued when Meehan added to that tally, this time, after the bustling Sean McVeigh was fouled.
And in the fourth minute county dual star Niall O’Donnell hit a superb point, ghosting between two defenders and managing to avoid a hook, before deftly flicking the sliothar over the bar.
Setanta marksman Kevin Campbell got the pre-match favourites off the mark in the sixth minute as conditions gradually worsened.
The hard working Sean McVeigh then hit the score of the match with his left hand side to put his side ahead by 0-4 to 0-1.
But that was to be Letterkenny last last score for the next 17 minutes as Setanta gradually settled into the match.
However Setanta corner forward Shane Flynn was very lucky to escape some form of censure when Sean McVeigh hit the ground pretty hard after an incident with Flynn in the 15th minute.
Referee Neil Wallace consulted with his linesman but no action was taken and Flynn was substituted with Justin McBride coming on in his place.
Meanwhile Setanta were settling in well and the scores came from Campbell from a free and a fine long-range effort from Danny Cullen.
Campbell levelled matters with a long range free in the 20th minute.
Eunan’s came out of that valley period with a pointed free from Meehan.
But Setanta managed to maintain a slight advantage with Campbell and wing back Sean Anderson firing over a delightful long- range effort the bar to give the Setanta men a slight advantage at half-time.
However, this match was effectively decided in a power packed scoring surge from Setanta.
It began with four quick fire points in as many minutes for the Finn Valley men from Bernard Lafferty, Mark Kane and two from the increasingly influential Declan Coulter.
And Coulter played a key role in the clinching goal for the winners.
His monster free from 75 metres seemed to hang in the air and was tapped down by team captain Kevin CampbelL; the ball broke to the lurking Colm Melaugh who pulled on the ball and first timed it to the net in the 38th minute.
Melaugh’s cool finish put Setanta ahead by 1-12 to 0-6 and the imperious Coulter added another to set Setanta firmly on the road to victory.
But they had a speed wobble or two as Letterkenny’s lion hearted centre forward Sean McVeigh found himself free deep inside the Setanta defence and he found the net.
A well-struck long -range point followed this from Conor O’Grady.
But, Setanta hung tough and showed their vast craft and experience as they clinched a thoroughly deserved victory.
SETANTA: Ciaran Bellew; Brendan Tourish, Simon McMenamin, Mark Callaghan; Sean Anderson (0-1) Martin Bonner, Niall Cleary; Richie Kee, Danny Cullen (0-1); Bernard Lafferty (0-1) Colm Melaugh (1-0), Mark Kane (0-1); Shane Flynn, Declan Coulter (0-7,5f), Kevin Campbell (0-4,4f). Subs: Justin McBride for Shane Flynn 15, Jonny Carlin for Bernard Lafferty 51, Gary McGettigan for Kevin Campbell 59, Conor Gallen for Sean Anderson 61.
ST EUNAN’S: Colm Breathnach; Conor O’Donnell, Conor McVeigh, Gearoid Leahy; Conor Kelly, Conor O’Grady (0-1) Conor Parke; Colm Flood, Steven Doherty; Sean Halvey, Sean McVeigh (1-2), Eugene Organ; Kevin Kealy, Niall O’Donnell (0-1) Kevin Meehan (0-4,4f). Subs: Dara McCarthy for Niall O’Donnell 53, Cian Durack for Sean Halvey 55.
REFEREE: Hugh Wallace (Burt)