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Setanta and An Poc Fada

This is a story about the greatest of our heroes!
As a young boy growing up everyone knew Setanta was going to be famous. He was strong and intelligent boy who loved nothing more than to run as free as the wind across the fields of his father’s farm, hunting and exploring. He loved nature and made friends with many of the animals learning from them the ways of the wild. He learned how to listen to the wind and know when a storm was close. He understood the flow of the silver stream and knew when a fish was swimming upriver so he could be ready to spear it. He could swim as fast as a man could run and he could run faster than a hare. He could jump as high as a stag and when he was only ten years old he was as strong as a young bull. At the great game of hurling he was the best of all. He could puck the sliotar 50 yards into the air yet he could run and catch it before it touched the ground. His yells could be heard echoing from one mountain top to the next yet his singing was so soft and low that he could send a frightened lamb to sleep. 

SetantaAbove all else Setanta longed to be a warrior and dreampt of joining the Red Branch Knights of Ulster. They were the greatest warriors in the world and protected Ireland from the enemies and armies from other countries who tried to attack. Their leader was Conor Mac Neasa the High King of Ireland. Now young boys who wanted to join the Red Branch Knights had to go to a training camp for many years. Even after that only a few were asked to join the Red Branch Knights.

When he was ten years old Setanta told his mother and father that he was off to join the High King’s warriors. His mother said – “ Wait until you are older. You’re only a gorsoon!”

His father was proud of his son’s ambition. “My son, you’re too young. Wait a few more years. Then you will be skilful enough to impress the King.” But Setanta was fed up of waiting. “Father”, he said, “ if the King turns me away I will return home and work with you on the farm and never more talk of the Red Knights”. His father and mother who loved him very much so they agreed. The King would surely laugh at this young boy and send him home! 

And so it came to pass one bright morning in May with the sun beginning to climb high in the bright blue sky Setanta set out for Eamhain Macha, the palace of the High King of Ireland. He stepped lightly for his heart was bursting with joy but before he had travelled ten miles he met a woman on the road who needed help. She was struggling to pull a cart full of chikens and flour out of the ditch where it was stuck. Without a thought for his own safety Setanta lept into the ditch and freed the cart. The woman was very grateful and offered him food and drink. As he drank his fill of water and took the edge off his hunger with bread Setanta told her of his plan. The woman smiled at his spirit. She told him her name was Caoimhe and that she lived near Eamhain Macha and offered him shelter should he need it. Setanta thanked her and set off across the Cooley mountains.

As he went he struck his sliotar with his Caman and chased after it striving to hit it again before it touched the ground. After a while he became really good at this. He scattered sheep before him and startled rabbits and hares who scurried off into their burrows and behind rocks. Coming down the Mountain onto the plain of Eamhain Macha Setanta heard the familiar cries of boys playing sport. As he turned a corner his heart jumped for joy. A hurling match! He raced ahead eager to join in. None of the boys, who were all much older and bigger than Setanta, welcomed him at all. At last after much begging he was put in to goals. The match swayed back and forth with mighty blows being struck on man and ball. Setanta earned respect from the other boys for his skill and bravery. He stopped shots of blinding speed and threw himself in the thick of the goalmouth action. No goals went past him but many points were scored as the other team drew ahead.

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