By Niall Gartland
SETANTA will be hoping history repeats itself when they take on Na Magha in Saturday’s Ulster Junior Hurling Championship semi-final at Healy Park.
The Donegal side claimed victory over Na Magha in the Ulster Junior final back in 2017, and their manager Gary McGettigan believes that, if anything, their side is even stronger than it was five years ago.
They edged a quarter-final victory over Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon (after 14 long weeks of waiting) in a thrilling contest last Saturday, and they’ll be quietly confident of booking their place in the final.
The primary objective this season was regaining the Donegal crown after a surprise defeat to St Eunan’s last year, and now that’s been achieved, the Ulster Championship is the only show in town.
McGettigan said: “The main aim was to win Donegal but we now have our sights on giving Ulster a rattle. To be honest, we weren’t expecting to face Dungannon in the first round, it was a big surprise when they lost to Naomh Column Cille in Tyrone. It was a really tough battle, we only won by a point, but a game like that is perfect preparation for the next game.”
McGettigan played in goals when Setanta got the better of Derry outfit Na Magha in the 2017 Ulster Junior final, but he’s actually a native of Strabane on the Tyrone-Donegal border.
Strabane stopped fielding at adult level in 2015, so that’s how he got involved with Setanta, who can call upon some of the most talented players in the province, like Danny Cullen, Declan Coulter and Tipperary native Davin Flynn.
They’ve also added a dash of youthful talent to the team in recent seasons.
“The 2017 win came up on my Facebook memories the other day as it’s five years ago exactly. Seven of the starting team are still starting for us, but if anything the panel is probably stronger now. Setenta had a really good minor team, and a few lads have come in from outside the county, which has boosted the senior team as well.”
On Na Magha, he said: “That’s who we played in 2017 but we don’t know much about them.
“We played them in a challenge match a year or two ago. I watched the Down Junior Championship final because it was available to stream, and I thought Warrenpoint were decent. Na Magha then seemed to put them away fairly handy in Ulster, going by the scoreline, so they must be going well.”
It’s only a six-day turnaround for this particular match after waiting 14 weeks for their Ulster Championship opener against Eoghan Ruadh. That’s a long wait but McGettigan said they also saw it as an opportunity for some down-time.
“To be fair we had the chance to object earlier in the season when the proposal was issued. It wasn’t all bad to be honest, we gave the boys nearly five weeks off.
“Some of our senior players, like Danny Cullen, wouldn’t have had the month of August off for the last 20 years, so it was nice for those boys to book a bit of time away.
“When we got back to training, things built week-by-week and we got a few challenge games, and it worked out alright.”