Setanta facing massive challenge against Ardmore
All-Ireland Club JHC semi-final: Setanta (Donegal) v Ardmore (Waterford) (tomorrow, 2pm, Pairc Tailteann)
SETANTA manager Paul Campbell admits his side is right up against it when they face Waterford junior champions Ardmore tomorrow.
The Déise club are almost unbackable 1/20 favourites ahead of the Pairc Tailteann clash, and with a loose examination of their credentials you see why.
While they were relegated to junior championship hurling last year, they maintained intermediate league status and in 2017, they pushed on and won promotion back to the senior league for the incoming year.
So in one sense they're a senior team in the home of the beaten inter-county All-Ireland finalists, and yet here they are playing junior championship against the best Donegal has to offer.
It is what it is. The Tír Chonaill men aren't looking for excuses. Barring flu victim Niall Cleary, who might yet make it, they have a full hand to choose from after James Callaghan won his appeal against a red card late in the Ulster final win over Na Magha.
The Waterford men will be without two key men of their after former county man Wayne Hennessy and goalkeeper Jack Walsh were both dismissed in their Munster final win over Ballybacon-Grange.
Setanta manager Paul Campbell – who played up until u12 with Ulster senior champions Slaughtneil, from where his mother hails, before the family moved to Donegal – hopes that the tendency to allow the red mist into their eyes is something his side can play on.
“They've a tendency to get men sent off, they don't like the tight hurling and tight marking. Ballybacon-Grange were fit and in Ardmore's faces, and Ardmore couldn't take it, they were swinging about getting men sent off.
“They don't like the tight hurling and that's sort of the Ulster way.”
Campbell travelled south to watch both their opponents' provincial semi-final and final. The talents of former county duo Seamus and Declan Prendergast, as well as Seamus Keating, who played the whole of the National League in the Waterford side last year, makes them a daunting prospect.
Setanta will rely on their own attacking talents of Campbell's free-taking brother Kevin and former Armagh sharp-shooter Declan Coulter, who hit 1-17 of their 2-17 in the Ulster final between them.
They took no break over Christmas and spent St Stephen's Day doing a two-and-a-half hour training session on Rossnowlagh Beach before the club's annual big swim.
Challenge games against Donegal and a strong Sligo IT resulted in morale-boosting wins but Campbell knows the scale of the task facing his men in Navan tomorrow.
“We're up against it big time. Middletown played Ardmore two weeks ago and Ardmore won by five points, and they're the intermediate representatives. That's the standard they're at. We'll go and give a good account of ourselves.
“Training's going well. We've nothing to lose and everything to win. Hopefully we can catch them on the hop in the first 10 minutes, and you never know what might happen if you get a run on them.”