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Setanta and An Poc Fada

Setanta was longing to move outfield and score. At last he saw his chance. The tallest of the players on the other team was a fairhaired boy named Ferdia. He was fast and skilled and brave. He grabbed the sliotar from the middle of the crowd of players and raced for goal. As he came closer to Setanta time seemed to stand still. Everyone held their breath as the small figure in the goal stood guard. Setanta never took his eyes off the onrushing Ferdia. As the boy tossed the ball in the air and steadied to hit it Setanta took off. In a flash he flicked the sliotar over the astonished Ferdia’s head and doubled on it. Teams and onlookers stared openjawed as the ball soared into the air. But Setanta didn’t pause. 

He sprinted after the ball and as he had been doing all day on the Mountain reached the ball before it fell to the ground and hitting it with all his strength scored a goal before anybody realised what had happened. As Setanta made his way back to the goal he passed Ferdia who for a moment looked as though he would smash Setanta with his hurley. But instead he dropped his caman to the ground and breaking into a broad grin clapped the gaisce he had just witnessed. The other players did the same and cheered loudly and lustily.

Lady GregoryUnseen in a grove of trees above the playground a lone horseman nudged his horse and cantered off chuckling. When Ferdia told Setanta that the King was away from the palace and wasn’t expected back til the following day, the disappointed boy remembered the invitation of Caoimhe. He set off for his lodgings, planning to plead with King Conor the following morning. Darkness was falling as Setanta approached Caoimhe’s house. Laughter and music flowed from behind the walls and firelight brightened the night sky. Suddenly Setanta heard a blood-curdling growl and from out of the shadows padded a demon beast. With eyes that smouldered like embers and teeth that shone like knives in the firelight came the most gigantic hound Setanta had ever seen. His lips were drawn back in a snarl and his jowels dripped foam as he was staring at the ten year old boy with a dangerous glare. He launched himself with growls and snarls and in three swift strides was on the boy.

Setanta had no time to think and for a brief moment thought he was finished. But faster than the hound could snap, Setanta fell on his back and using his hurl pushed the beast ten feet in the air. As the hound crashed to the ground in a frenzy of yowls and snarls, Setanta lept to his feet and stood ready with his hurl cocked.Meanwhile inside the fortress the guests fell silent. They knew some unfortunate trespasser was doomed. The silence was broken as Caoimhe, remembering the young boy who had helped her during the day, screamed in terror. She blurted her tale as one the men raced for the door, fearing the worst. The silence was chilling and Caoimhe screamed Setanta’s name. 

A quiet voice replied, “I’m sorry for the hound, but I had no choice.” Standing in the flickering half light was the figure of the boy and motionless on the ground beside him was the hound. “The hound belongs to my husband Cullan, the King’s Blacksmith, but I’m not sorry he’s dead”, said Caoimhe. “But how did you kill him?”
Setanta replied, “I fired the sliotar down his throat with my hurl as he ran at me”.
“Well he was the best watchdog I ever had” said Cullan, “but I’m glad he didn’t kill you boy”. 
“I will take the place of the hound until you find another one” said Setanta.
A tall noble-looking man standing behind Cullan spoke. “Aren’t you the goalkeeper who scored the goal today. Who are you boy and what are you doing here”?
“My name is Setanta and I have come to join the RedBranch Knights”, replied the boy.
“Well my name is Conor MacNeasa, High King of Ireland and I welcome you among the Red Branch Knights. You are a worthy warrior and from now on you shall be known as Cu Chullain, the Hound of Cullan.”
And so it was that Cuchullain got his name and went on to become the greatest warrior Ireland has ever known. 

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