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Determined Finnegan relishing historic clash

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Former Antrim football captain, Anto Finnegan was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2012 and has since set up the charity deterMND in a bid to raise awareness of the debilitating condition. David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Former Antrim football captain, Anto Finnegan was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2012 and has since set up the charity deterMND in a bid to raise awareness of the debilitating condition. David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Former Antrim football captain, Anto Finnegan was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2012 and has since set up the charity deterMND in a bid to raise awareness of the debilitating condition. David Maher/SPORTSFILE

It's been over a year in the making but on Saturday, Anto Finnegan will see his and his foundation's hard work pay off as the 'Game for Anto' takes centre stage at Ravenhill - the home of Ulster Rugby (6.0).

The game which will feature an Ulster select team and Dublin (who have named a strong travelling squad) will be unique for several reasons as Finnegan explains.

"Obviously being at Ulster Rugby is the first thing. It's two different sports coming together to support the trust, which is fantastic," the 41-year old said.

"We have Dublin travelling up to Belfast for the first time in 20 years. I think the last time they were up, Jim Gavin was playing! We also have the Ulster selection and it's been 20 years since that happened."

The former Antrim football captain was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) in 2012 and has since set up the charity deterMND in a bid to raise awareness of the debilitating condition. .

"This is an idea that started last year. I was on holiday in Seville with my family and I was on the phone trying to make arrangements, so to get it to this stage is really fantastic. It's probably going to be a 13-a-side game, which puts another spin on the event itself.

"We wanted to do a showcase event because although there are events that raise awareness, a big event like this will really bring it to the public eye," he admitted.

Last weekend, Finnegan and former South African rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen, who also suffers from MND, spent the morning together in a Dublin hotel.

The man widely regarded as one of the best scrum-halves to have played the game was in town for the Springboks' game against Ireland and Finnegan maintained that it was an ideal time to meet a man who is suffering with the same distressing condition.

"We spoke for a while about living with the condition and how it affects our lives and the similarities that we share. We both had very active lifestyles, both of us are in our 40s.

"We both face the exact same obstacles and are trying to raise awareness through our foundations," Finnegan added.

Tickets are £10 and are available from Ticketmaster.co.uk and all enquires can be made to info@determnd.com. Setanta Ireland will also televise the game live.

Irish Independent