By Shaun Casey
ULSTER finals don’t come along every year, so Shane O’Neill’s are going to enjoy this moment as much as they can. The maiden winners of the Ulster Junior Hurling championship are back in the decider hoping to pick up a second provincial crown.
That was way back in 2004 when the Glenarm club hammered Armagh side St Malachy’s Portadown, 4-13 to 0-5, and this time around the take on Setanta of Donegal.
“There’s a great buzz around the club at the minute, Ulster finals don’t come around that often,” said Shane O’Neill’s selector Ciaran Matthews.
“Even getting out of Antrim, the competition is that fierce, this is something that you’ll maybe only get once in your whole career. Everybody that is in around us, there’s massive support.
“It’s unreal actually the support we’ve been getting from everybody, even people that maybe don’t have any interest in hurling, they’re all getting behind the team. There’s great community spirit at the minute and it’s good to see.”
Shane O’Neill’s have been in fantastic form throughout the competition, hitting a combined total of 5-47 in their two wins over Carrickmacross and Sean Treacy’s.
“We’ve done well now; we’ve had two good results in Ulster and even coming through Antrim we had some good results as well. It’s good to see everything just netting together now at the one time,” added Matthews.
“We’ve some very handy wee forwards in there and they have an eye for the net and an eye for a point so we can rely on them when needed. But we’re brave and tight defensively as well. It’s good that we can do that to teams (put up big tallies), especially when there’s a lot of good teams there.
“The first game against Carrickmacross was a very big game for us, they were in the final last year and to beat them the way we did, it got us off to a great start and gave the boys a bit of confidence going forward.
“Sean Treacy’s were definitely a tough opposition, and they did put it up to us. They have some really handy players, but we just had that wee bit extra on the day to get us over the line.”
Their opponents Setanta have been doing some high scoring themselves on route to making the decider. The Donegal men saw off Dungannon in the quarter final by one-point, 1-16 to 2-11, before knocking Na Magha out on a scoreline of 2-20 to 1-16.
“We don’t really know too much about them to be honest,” admitted Matthews. “When you go into Ulster it’s nearly a shot in the dark with the teams you come up against.
“But they’ve been doing well themselves, they had a good win over Dungannon and they’re not an easy team to beat. They’re scoring heavily as well so it’ll be a tight tussle. It’ll be a tough ask for us, but I firmly believe we can get over the line.”