St Eunan's and Setanta - a novel Donegal hurling final pairing

St Eunan's and Setanta - a novel Donegal hurling final pairing
Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

St Eunan’s are bidding to end a 45 year famine when they face Setanta in the Donegal Senior Hurling final on Saturday in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey (3.00 p.m.)

That’s how long it is since St Eunan’s won the last of their five senior hurling titles back in 1972.

They defeated Burt 3-3 to 2-1 in that final and the O’Donnell Park club have only contested one final since.

And that was all of 14 years ago when Aodh Ruadh were their conquerors in the final of 2003.

“Hurling in the club declined in the 1970s and there was no hurling in the club for a good few years until it was revived again in the middle of the 1990s by Gabriel Flood,” said current St Eunan’s manager, Paddy Flood.

“It has been a long, slow process and we have been building steady and we have a very good team.

“But they are very young; eight of the team that defeated MacCumhaill’s were either 20 or under.”

Setanta, Donegal’s sole hurling only club, have been out of the honours lists too for a number of years.

The ten time champions have to go back nine years to 2008 since the coveted Munster Cup - the prize for the winners - was last at the Crossroads.

They have lost three finals since, the most recent of those was in 2013 when they went down to their arch rivals, Burt.

Paul Campbell is the Setanta manager and is a championship winner with the club in his own playing days.

And he is not happy that the final was put back a week from last Saturday to this Saturday at short notice by the Donegal CCC.

“We were told last March that the hurling final was on Saturday, September 9th and we planned accordingly,” insisted the Setanta boss.

“Because of work commitments the moving of the game means we could be without three of our best defenders.

“We will definitely be without Marty Bonner. He is working in England and won’t get home while Marty Callaghan and Justin McBride, they are in the army and are due to work this weekend.

“We are hoping they will get off duty but there is no guarantees and it is very unfair on the lads who had organised to be off last weekend.”

The teams have met once in the championship already in the earlier rounds. That game at the Cross ended in a draw.

Setanta lost to Burt, drew with St Eunan’s and defeated MacCumhaill’s and Buncrana in the group games.

They defeated Burt in the semi-final to claim their pace in the final.

St Eunan’s qualified from the group by virtue of their draw with Setanta and win over Buncrana.

They lost to Burt and MacCumhaill’s in the group before causing a major upset by overcoming MacCumhaill’s in the semi-final.

“There is great excitement in the club because it is all so new to us,” says Flood.

“But we are really looking forward to the final after falling short in the last few years but we know we are up against a very experienced and talented Setanta side.

“Everything went well for us the last day against MacCumhaill’s and we will have to turn in a similar style performance and even better against Setanta if we are to have any chance.”

Brian McIntyre (shoulder injury) is out of the St Eunan’s squad but otherwise Paddy Flood has reported a clean bill of health.

James Callaghan (cruciate injury) is out of the reckoning for Setanta. Otherwise Paul Campbell has reported no other injury concerns.

St Eunan’s squad: Colm Breathnach; Conor O’Donnell, Conor McVeigh, Gearóid Leahy; Conor Kelly, Conor O’Grady, Conor Parke; Colm Flood, Steven Doherty; Seán Halvey, Seán McVeigh, Niall O’Donnell, Kevin Kealy, Eugene Organ (captain),Kevin Meehan, James Connors, Cian Durack, John McIntyre, Darragh McCarthy, Cormac Hartnett, Eoin Scanlon, Adie Gaffey, Eunan O’Donnell, Shane Maguire, Cian Randles, Gareth Cooper, Ryan Hilferty, Francis Lennon, Des Kenny, Ronan Steed, Noel Gorman, Eoin McLaughlin, Caoimhin Lennon, Aaron O’Connell, Anthony Horgan, Brian McIntyre, Paddy Flood, Seán McBride.

Setanta squad: Sean Anderson, Ciaran Bellew, Marty Bonner, Damien Browne, James Callaghan, Marty Callaghan, Kevin Campbell, Jonathan Carlin, Josh Connolly, Danny Cullen, Justin McBride, Alan McConnell, Dean McDevitt, Gary McGettigan, Simon McMenamin, Colm Melaugh, Ciaran O’Neill, David Porter, Denim Rowan, Damien Tourish, Declan Coulter, Niall Cleary, Dylan Lynton.

VERDICT: Setanta.