Hurling & Camogie

Donegal's Setanta see off game Eire Og in Ulster IHC Final

Setanta celebrate a first Ulster IHC triumph by a Donegal club. Pic: Margaret McLaughlin
Setanta celebrate a first Ulster IHC triumph by a Donegal club. Pic: Margaret McLaughlin

Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship Final: Setanta (Donegal) 1-16 Eire Og, Carrickmore (Tyrone) 2-11

Setanta soared to victory on a historic day for Donegal hurling, the first club to bring an Ulster Club IHC title to the county.

They held off an Eire Og side also seeking a maiden provincial success at Owenbeg, with ace finisher Gerry Gilmore leading the way.

Ex-Tyrone player Gilmore broke the hearts of many of his former team-mates with an 11-point haul in a polished display of accurate striking.

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The Killygordon side looked comfortable at six points to the good at the break, even more so when Carrickmore had a man sent off at the start of the second half, but Dean Rafferty’s penalty brought the sides level.

However, a late Sean Ward goal restored Setanta’s focus as they saw it out to the finish, triumphing at Intermediate level just a year after being crowned Ulster Junior champions.

“It's a good feeling to have,” said prolific finisher Gilmore.

“We kind of know Carrickmore inside out because we've had good challenge games with them over the past few years. So we expected a good tight battle. But I think we just got off to the better start.

“In saying that they got off to a flyer in the second half. You could see whoever wanted it more on the day and there was no way that we were backing down to anyone on the day.

“I'm sure you saw that out there – we fought for every ball. We got legs in, hands in, heads in and everything. Days like that, those are the things that you need to do.”

Setanta’s five-point cushion at the break looked even more comfortable when their opponents were reduced to 14 men, but the Carrickmore side battled back to level the game.

“When games go like that, you kind of know teams are going to get their wee purple patch,” said Gilmore.

“We talked about that at half-time that we kind of knew they were going to come at us. We knew what to expect.

“The biggest thing that we had to do was stay composed and stick to our gameplan. In winter hurling anything can happen and we just kept to our game-plan, started playing the ball in and running at them.

“They had tired legs but we are well conditioned this year and sort of backed ourselves in the final. If you don't back yourself in the final, then nobody will.”

Eire Og got off to a bright start with a Conn Sweeney point, but soon the Donegal men were 0-4 to 0-1 ahead, as Gilmore quickly found his range, three of his four points in the opening ten minutes coming from frees.

The Carrickmore side clawed it back, and three long range frees from centre back Dermot Begley had them level by the 19th minute.

But Setanta dominated the final ten minutes of the half, reeling off six unanswered points to take a commanding lead.

Contrasting emotions for Eire Og and Setanta players.
Contrasting emotions for Eire Og and Setanta players.

Declan Coulter and Danny Cullen were the experienced heads behind the flourish which saw Gilmore add another three scores, with Cullen, Oisin Marley and Josh Connolly McGee also on target as they built up a 0-11 to 0-5 interval advantage.

The mountain facing Eire Og became even steeper when Ruairi Slane was shown a straight red card five minutes into the second half, but they took on the challenge with courage.

Substitute Aidy Kelly fired over his second point, with Sean Og Grogan adding another, and when Grogan was fouled, Dean Rafferty rifled a 39th minute penalty to the net to bring the sides level.

Kelly continued to strike accurately from frees, but they could never get their noses in front, with Marley, Coulter and Gilmore all on target, and Setanta full back Steven McBride rose magnificently to the challenge with a defiant defensive display.

Sean Ward grabbed a crucial 58th minute goal, finishing first-time after Ruairi Campbell’s effort had been half-blocked, and they stretched the lead out to five points in stoppage time.

Eire Og battled to the finish, pulling back a goal through Kelly, but this was to be Setanta’s day.

Setanta: K Campbell; C McGettigan, S McBride, M Callaghan; C Gallen, B Lafferty, N Cleary; D Coulter (0-1), D Harvey; S Ward (1-0), D Cullen (0-1), O Marley (0-2); J Connolly McGee (0-1), G Gilmore (0-11, 8f, 1 ’65), R Campbell.

Subs: M Donaghue for Gallen (38), C Melaugh for Harvey (49), R Coyle for Cleary (58)

Eire Og: C McElhatton; M Kelly, O McKee, D Rafferty (1-0, pen); A Crossan, D Begley (0-3, 3f), S Sweeney; B McGurk, R Slane; C Grogan, J Kelly (0-1), C Sweeney (0-1); C Munroe, S Og Grogan (0-1), O Daly.

Subs: A Kelly (1-5, 3f, 1 ’65) for S Sweeney (28), B Conway for Daly (47), E Grimes for Crossan (61), T Hughes for M Kelly (62)

Referee: C McDonald (Antrim).