Shane O’Neill’s one step from Ulster Glory

Ulster Junior Hurling Club Final

Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm v Setanta Donegal

Celtic Park (Derry) Sunday 1.45pm

Antrim Junior Hurling champions, Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm are one step away from Ulster glory. On Sunday they face Setanta of Donegal in the Ulster final at Celtic Park Derry and it is a final the Feystown side are more than capable of winning.

Shane O’Neill’s have had a wonderful season in Antrim, gaining promotion from division 3 as league winners and going through their league programme with only one defeat in 11 starts. They carried that good form into the Junior Championship which was ran in a group forum before progressing to a knockout stage.

Shane O’Neill’s topped their group which earned them a home draw against Glen Rovers, Armoy, a side they had already defeated in league and championship, and were given a tough game in Feystown before their bit of extra class saw them through to the Antrim final where they met St. Mary’s Rasharkin.

Glenarm produced a strong finish to finally banish their junior championship hoodoo.  Eight points separated the sides at the end of the hour as the Shane O’Neill’s saw off the dogged resistance of Rasharkin in the final quarter. It was the Glenarm men’s first junior title in 65 years, though they have won Intermediate and Intermediate Reserve titles in the interim, but the junior had eluded them.

It was on to Ulster and a trip to Ennis keen where Pat O’Neill’s side faced Monaghan’s Carrick across in the quarter-final and, despite conceding an early goal proved too good for the Monaghan side.

Glenarm produced a performance of awesome scoring power and intensity to sweep aside the challenge of their opponents to progress to the semi-final.

Team captain, Darren Hamill and Ciaran Magill led the way for the Antrim champions and their intensity and ability to grab goals saw them run home fairly comfortable winner as they hit an impressive 4-27 on the day to set up a semi-final meeting with Sean Treacy’s of Kurgan.

Egham Road Hurling Club in Duncannon was the venue for the semi-final and Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm produced another strong performance to overcome the challenge of a determined Sean Treacy’s, Kurgan to advance to the final.

The Antrim Champions led 0-12 to 0-6 at half time thanks to late points from Darren Hamill and Kevin O’Boyle but looked in a bit of trouble early in the second half when Sean Treacy’s ace marksman, Danny Magee pointed a couple of early frees and Tam McKavanagh added another from play to close the gap to three points after 6 minutes.

It was as close as the Armagh champions got however and when Kieran O’Boyle kicked the sliotar to the Treacy’s net, three minutes later after being placed by Ciaran Magill, the Feystown side never looked back.

Shane O’Neill’s went on to win by 1-20 to 0-12 and now face Donegal champions, Setanta where they are likely to face their toughest challenge to date.

Setanta were crowned 2022 Donegal Senior Hurling Champions with a five point win over Burt in extra time at O’Donnell Park Letterkenny. In normal time, the Inishowen side recovered twice to keep the game tight when the men from the Cross threatened to pull away. Four points in succession had Setanta leading 0-6 to 0-3 coming up to the break but Burt rallied to pull it back to 0-6 to 0-5 at half time.

In the opening exchanges of the second half, Setanta again looked to be establishing a winning platform, leading by 0-10 to 0-6 after 30 minutes but once again Burt recovered. A shock appeared on the cards when Man of the Match, and scorer of 13 points, Liam McKinney put Burt 0-12 to 0-11 ahead as the game entered the last five minutes. Declan Coulter, a man of the match contender himself with eight points and an all-round impressive display, levelled the match on the stroke of full-time and Danny Cullen followed up with a majestic score to give the Killygordon side the lead. Consistent with their never-say-die attitude throughout, Burt survived with McKinney striking over a pressure free to bring the match to extra time.

Setanta were fast out of the blocks with an early extra-time point and within a minute Burt were reduced to fourteen men with a red card to midfielder Christopher McDermott. Setanta made full use of their numerical advantage hitting four more points but Burt hung in with two of their own to leave it 0-18 to 0-15 at the break. Both sides traded points early in the second half but a Davin Flynn goal set the seal on the game and Setanta ran out 1-20 to 0-18 winners.

Setanta defeated Eoghan Ruadh in the Ulster quarter-final on a scoreline of 1-16 to 2-11 in Letterkenny before facing Na Magha of Derry, who play their hurling in the Antrim leagues in the semi-final.

Setanta had 7 points to spare in that one and they will go into Sunday’s final in a confident mood. They are a strong team. They won the Ulster Junior Hurling title back in 2017 when they beat Na Magha in the final.

Glenarm have the men to test the Donegal champions and in team captain Darren Hamill they have a man who leads by example and his performances on the ‘40’ this year have been outstanding and his eye for a goal makes him one to watch.

Their defence has been solid all year with Michael Abram in goals, Barry Hamill and Declan McDermott at the spine of an uncompromising defence who give nothing away easy. McDerrmott missed the semi-final win over Sean Treacy’s with Daniel Black dropping back to centre-half on that occasion and Ben O’Boyle coming into mid-field to partner Kieran O’Boyle.

If McDermott is available I would expect him to start at centre-half with Saffron Gael man of the match in the Antrim final, Daniel Black reverting to his more familiar mid-field role but wherever he plays he is likely to have a major influence on the final outcome.

Hamill will once again direct the Feystown orchestra on the ‘40’ and his ability to grab vital goals throughout the championship has been instrumental in his side’s success and with potential match winners like Niall McGarel, Dylan McLaughlin and Ciaran Magill throughout the Glenarm forward division I would expect Shane O’Neill’s to claim the Ulster Junior Crown.

Last out of Feystown on Sunday morning switch off the lights and lock the doors with another big support from Carnlough and the hills above Glenarm likely to make the journey to the maiden city and their support has been like a 16th man to Shane O’Neill’s as they turned up in numbers throughout the campaign, perhaps anticipating that something special could happen at Celtic Park.

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