Glenarm braced for Ulster final battle with Donegal's finest
AIB Ulster Club JHC final: Shane O'Neill's (Antrim) v Setanta (Donegal) (Sunday, Celtic Park, 1.45pm)
DONEGAL'S top team face a resurgent Antrim force in the battle for the Ulster Club JHC title tomorrow.
Setanta's clash with Shane O'Neill's at Celtic Park presents a decider laced with intrigue and unpredictability as the Donegal Senior champions take on the Saffron county's top junior side.
The Glenarm men had to battle their way through the county championship, but once they entered the provincial arena they were able to hurl with freedom and flair.
A 4-27 to 1-12 quarter-final win over Carrickmacross of Monaghan was followed by a convincing 1-20 to 0-12 defeat of Armagh champions Sean Treacy's as they charged into the decider with authority.
Setanta's route to the final was a more challenging one. After squeezing past Eoghan Ruadh of Tyrone by 1-16 to 2-11, they got the better of Derry's Na Magha on a 2-20 to 1-16 scoreline.
Shane O'Neill's, led by former Antrim player Darren Hamill, have inspirational performers in Dylan McLaughlin, Kevin O'Boyle and stoic defender Barry Hamill, along with exciting youngsters Niall McGarel and Sean O'Boyle, all capable of making a difference in the club's bid to add to its previous provincial JHC title in 2004.
Manager Ciaran Matthews is concerned at dips in performance levels in previous games, and wants to see his side maintain a high level of intensity from start to finish.
“We have to step up our workrate and stay concentrated, stay on our game,” he said.
“We know that when we bring our game, we're as tough as anybody else.”
Matthews is preparing for the first big challenge of the current series against a Setanta side that won the title in 2017.
“It's a big task, but we feel we're up it, we have a lot of good hurlers ourselves. It's a great opportunity for us,” he added.
Declan Coulter, one of the most lethal finishers in the game, leads the line for the Donegal men, and having hit 0-14 in the semi-final, goes into tomorrow's decider on top form.
Along with Davin Flynn and Sean Ward, he will look to get quality ball in early and establish an early press.
Manager of the Killygordon side Gary McGettigan accepts that an Antrim opponent brings a different kind of challenge to anything that his side has confronted to date.
“Antrim teams have been the benchmark for the rest of Ulster over the last 30 years, so we're under no illusions, it's going to be a big task for us,” he said.
“But we have trained hard for it and hopefully we're ready for it.”
He feels that he has a forward unit capable of inflicting the necessary damage to give his side a strong shot at the title.
“We have three or four very good forwards, playing at county level, and hopefully they perform on the day. If they do, we'll not be far away.
“But equally, we've been reading up about Glenarm, and they would be in the same boat, with three or four good forwards there as well, who will take a bit of watching.”