Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship
Erin’s Own Cargin 0-16 St Mary’s Aghagallon 1-08
The reigning champions, Erin’s Own Cargin made progress into the semi finals of the 2017 version, and in pursuit of three in a row under the lights at Ahoghill on Friday evening but the Toome men found their opponents, St Mary’s Aghagallon a tough nut to crack.
The pundits had given the defending champions an overwhelming vote of confidence in their pre match analysis’ and an easy passage was forecast, but in the event the reigning Intermediate champions offered stubborn resistance. When the sides met a few weeks agon in the final of the O’Cahan Cup the men from Toome ran up a big total as they brushed aside the Aghagallon challenge. However this time around the Division 1 new boys offered much more resistance and they showed that their season in the top grade has paid dividends.
Aghagallon were quick out of the starting blocks and opened their account within a minute of the start as Shane Russell confidently stroked the ball over the bar and from the outset it was obvious that the St Mary’s men were not about to take any notice of the preordained script.
Cargin replied as Tomas Mc Cann sent over within a couple of minutes after Michael Magill’s flick opened the way, but Magill who looked sharp in the opening exchanges was to be forced out of the game shortly afterwards with a calf injury with minor star Jamie Gribbin entering the fray as his replacement, and the new boy gave a performance to suggest a bright future ahead.
A Gareth Magee 6th minute pointed free saw Aghagallon nip ahead but that lead was not to remain for long as a foul on the incoming James Laverty was punished fully when Kieran Close sent the resultant award between the posts and when Kevin McShane sent Michael McCann away on the left and the centre forward was grounded 30 metres from goal Tomas McCann added another from the awarded free.
The Toome men seemed to be in the groove as the game progressed and with the Aghagallon keeper finding problems in his kick outs Cargin came strong as Justin Crozier, who gave a splendid performance on the night, came forward to deliver for John Carron to grab a super long range point.
The St Mary’s men were on the back foot as their opponents ruled the central sector and centre back Crozier rose highest to fetch and deliver to Paul Mc Cann to send his sibling Tomas away on the left, but the corner-forward was denied by a superb save by Aghagallon net-minder Gavin O’ Neill who dived to his left to tip the leather over the bar .
The defending champs had opened a 0-06 to 0-02 lead and appeared to be on their way to the semi-final stages, but St Mary’s began to show some resistance as they slowly got back into the game, and a foul on the strong running Dessie Marshall was sent over the Cargin bar by free taker Gareth Magee.
Cargin seemed to lose their way as the opening period progressed as unforced errors and wayward finishing was costing them scores and opened the way for Aghagallon to reduce the deficit further in the 25th minute when Ruari McCann eluded his marker to fire over. Mc Cann was the obvious focus for the Aghagallon attack with early deliveries at every opportunity and he was to have an enthralling battle with his opposite number, Kane throughout the hour.
Kieran Close ended a barren spell for Cargin as his 27th minute free yielded a point but it was to be St Mary’s who were to dominate the remainder of the period and as the Toome men spurned several opportunities in the latter stages their opponents were proving more economic in front of posts.
Des Marshall added a 30th minute point and when Oisin Lenehan followed with another super effort from long range in time added on to leave just a point between the sides at the short whistle.
The raging hot favourites were at 0-07 to 0-06 and looking less than assured as they trooped off to ponder on deficiencies whilst Aghagallon must have been buoyed by their performance
The second half was in its infancy when the St Mary’s men strode forward and although Cargin net minder John Mc Nabb denied Ruairi Mc Cann with a fines save, corner forward Ciaran Brady was on hand to gather the rebound and fire to the net.
An upset was most certainly on as the ‘no hopers’ held a two point lead at 1-06 to 0-07 and the champions appeared to be in some trouble. The Erin’s Own men had looked out of sorts for much of the opening period and needed inspiration as they looked to find a response.
Aghagallon were not about to stand back and admire any such renaissance and strong in the challenge the St Mary’s side saw three of their number booked in the next few minutes as Oisin Lenehan, Des Marshall, and Pat Brannigan entered the ref’s notebook from the 35 to the 38th minute.
Brannigan’s indiscretion to halt the progress of Tomas Mc Cann was well punished when the latter dusted himself down to plant the resultant free between the posts, and when he followed suit following a foul on replacement Jamie Gribbin in the 40th minute Cargin had drawn level at 0-09 to 1-06.
The reigning champs having looked at the exit door were fighting for survival and if inspiration was the requirement such was about to be delivered as the veteran Tony Scullion entered the fray. Scullion was soon in the thick of the action with his strong runs forward and his arrival ignited of the blue touch paper to see the Cargin men explode into action. Tomas Mc Cann, who had an inspirational game split the posts three times in a five minute spell and with Kieran Close bagging another the reigning champions were four points clear as the game clock showed 54 minutes.
There was to be no way back for the Lough Shore side with Cargin now in control, and although the gallant St Mary’s men had certainly not given up the ghost the die was cast. Tomas Mc Cann added a 56th minute long range point to his ever increasing personal haul and although Paul Mulholland replied from a ‘45’ for the challengers it was Tony Scullion who raised the biggest cheer of the evening with a superb finish a minute later and that was that. A Shane Russell pointed free followed in time added on to complete the Aghagallon total with the last mark made by the hugely impressive Tomas McCann as his 45 metre effort which punished a foul on Tony Scullion saw Cargin breast the line at 0-16 to 1-08 and move onward to a place in the 2017 semi finals.
Cargin: John Mc Nabb, Donnach Mc Keever, Marty Kane, David Johnston, James Laverty, Justin Crozier (0-01), Ronan Devlin, John Carron (0-01), Gerard Mc Cann, Paul Mc Cann, Kevin Mc Shane, Kieran Close (0-03), Michael Magill, Tomas Mc Cann (0-10) Subs:Jamie Gribbin for M Magill, Mark Kelly for P McCann,Tony Scullion (0-01) for R Devlin
Aghagallon: Gavin O’ Neill, Paul Mulholland (0-01) Dan Donnelly, Ryan O’ Neill, Michael Mc Stravick, Pat Brannigan, Jack Lenehan, Caolan Farr, Oisin Lenehan, Shane Russell (0-03), Gareth Magee (0-02), Des Marshall, Mark Mc Kenna, Ruairi Mc Cann (0-01), Ciaran Brady (1-00) Subs: Adam Shanks for M Mc Stravick, Aidan Mulholland for P Brannigan, Niall Mc Shane for C Brady