Senior Football Championship (semi-final replay)
Erin’s Own Cargin 0-21 St John’s 3-17 (aet)
St John’s deservedly claimed a berth in the final of the senior football championship when they unseated the title holders Cargin after a rip roaring, hugely exciting semi-final encounter at Glenavy before a big crowd on Sunday evening.
The Corrigan residents looked on their way to the decider at Hannahstown last week but the Toome side finished strongly claiming a second chance and ensuring Sunday’s replay at the Chapel Hill venue. After the allotted sixty minutes failed to separate the protagonists, with the scores again tied at conclusion, it took an extra twenty minutes before St. John’s emerged victorious.
The Johnnies made a blistering start and an early goal despatched by the impressive Matthew Fitzpatrick set them on their way and when another unforced error opened the door for Conor Johnston to plunder another nearing the end of the sixty minutes they held a three point lead and looked on their way to the final.
Cargin were not finished however and after Tomas Mc Cann and Kieran Close raised white flags apiece in the 57th and 59th minutes and James Laverty followed with a superb injury time addition it was 0-17 to 2-11 at the long blast which signalled ‘extra time’ to be added.
Both sides were reduced in number at the start of extra time as Cargin’s Gerard Mc Cann and St John’s Simon Mc Donagh were shown red cards for off the ball shenanigans. The Johnnies went ahead again through a Patrick McBride point but they had to thank net minder Padraig Hannigan who denied Kieran Close at the expense of a point as Cargin responded.
Close appeared to be in for a major only to be denied by the keeper who stood tall to deflect over the bar to prevent a score which would have seen Cargin move a couple clear.
In the event replacement Conal Mc Glade ensured the Johnnies ended the opening extra period on terms.
The second half saw the Whiterock Road men dominate after an early Peter Mc Callin goal set them on their way and there was to be no way back for the Cargin men.
The excellent Matthew Fitzpatrick sent a penalty wide of the posts as the Johnnies dominated the closing stages with Tomas Mc Cann raising a couple of late whites but these were purely consolation at this stage.
Patrick McBride concluded the scoring with late points ensuring the Corrigan men remain on course for their 25th Antrim title and a date with Lamh Dhearg in next Sunday’s decider.
A big crowd had assembled in Glenavy in anticipation of another cracker as Erin’s Own Cargin and St John’s lined out again to decide who would claim a berth in the 2017 senior final.
Cargin had come strong in the latter stages in the initial Hannahstown encounter and the defending champions in search of an elusive three in a row had been installed as favourites again.
The opening phase was close and they were tied on 0-02 apiece by the 6th minute as Patrick Mc Bride’s opening score provoked a couple in reply at the other end by the very productive left boot of Cargin’s Kieran Close.
The wing half forward who has been in splendid form this season was on the cusp of another impressive display.
A 5th minute Ronan Mc Nulty free which yielded a point was followed by another couple for Kieran Close and Cargin had opened up a two point lead.
The Erin’s Own men looked on top in the early minutes but the Johnnies struck with a vengeance as a couple of Cargin defenders got in a tangle when a Ronan McNulty lofted delivery caused panic and Matthew Fitzpatrick took full advantage to fire past the advancing John McNabb to give his side the lead.
Cargin drew level as Paul McCann came in from the left side to fist between the posts before Conor Johnston replied to give his side back the lead.
A foul on Jamie Gribbin was punished as Tomas McCann fired over to level matters once more and when a Tony Scullion dash opened the way for Kieran Close to send between the posts the Toome men were ahead again.
Cargin were struggling to put their game together however and like last week were too slow and deliberate in their build up and it was to cost in the latter stages with three white flags raised in sequence by Conor Johnston, Ryan McNulty and Patrick McBride as St. John’s direct running game opened up gaps in the Erin’s Own defence.
Kieran Close did have the last say of the half as the ever accurate wing man concluded as he had started with a 32nd minute point after Michael McCann was fouled and at the break St John’s led 1-06 to 0-08.
St. John’s lead was short lived at the start of the second half as Cargin came storming out of the blocks and Tomas Mc Cann pointed within a minute to draw level and Kieran Close followed with another to edge them back ahead.
It all appeared to be going to plan as McCann added a couple more and the challengers looked in trouble and Cargin looked in a good place as they led 0-12 to 1-07.
St John’s were soon back on terms however as replacements Conor McAvoy and Conal McGlade were soon into the action as they posted back to back points and when Patrick McBride and Conor Johnston added similar scores they were two in front at the end of the third quarter.
The big crowd in attendance were certainly getting their money’s worth in this one as the ‘end to end’ activity continued and points delivered at the other end by Tomas Mc Cann and Kieran Close saw the Toome men back on terms and it was obvious this one was going right down to the wire.
The Cargin men looked back in control but they were rocked back on their heels once more as Conor Johnston raced away to plant the leather to the back of the net and the centre forward’s strike looked to have sealed the issue.
Cargin looked in trouble but like last week they were to finish strongly and after Tomas Mc Cann and Kieran Close raised whites apiece and James Lavery followed with another superb strike they were back on terms at the eleventh hour to ensure ‘extra time’ added.
The first ten minutes started in drama as Simon Mc Donagh and Gerard Mc Cann received red cards apiece, and side-lined as a consequence.
Patrick McBride struck an early point to give the Johnnies early advantage but Cargin were quick to reply and only a superb save from net-minder Padraig Nugent prevented Kieran Close finding the back of his net at the expense of a point.
Cargin moved ahead again through a Kiernan Close pointed free but the lead was not to last for long and a Conal Mc Glade reply in kind ensured the Johnnies were back on terms again as the opening ten minute period came to a close.
The second half of extra time commenced and it still looked anybody’s game and it was obvious that the team who held their nerve would win the day
and it was St John’s who made a bold bid for home within a minute of the restart.
A quickly taken free opened the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to send Conal Mc Glade away on the right had side. McGlade’s effort seemed to be drifting off target but it fell kindly for the incoming Peter McCallin and the youngster made no mistake as he fired to the corner of the net.
Michael Bradley added a point to increase the Johnnies lead and there was to be no way back this time for the reigning champions. Their misery was complete when Michael McCann was forced off injured and the Whiterock Road men were on their way to next Sunday’s final
They could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty from their talisman, Matthew Fitzpatrick and although Tomas McCann responded with a couple more points it was St. John’s who finished strongly with two late Patrick McBride points.
This excellent win sees the Johnnies back in a county final for the first time since 1998 in search of their 25th title and on this performance it would be a brave man who would bet against them though Lamh Dhearg might have something to say about that.
Referee Sean Laverty (Moneyglass)
Cargin: John McNabb, Tony Scullion, Gerard McCorley, David Johnston, James Laverty (0-01), Justin Crozier, Kevin O’ Boyle, Gerard McCann, John Carron, Kieran Close (0-11), Michael McCann, Jamie Gribbin, Tomas McCann (0-08), Paul McCann (0-01), Michael Clarke.
Michael Magill for Paul Mc Cann
Enda Mc Grogan for M Clarke
Ronan Devlin for G Mc Corley
Kevin Mc Shane for J Gribbin
Ciaran Bradley for E Mc Grogan
Paul Mc Cann for C Bradley
St John’s: Padraig Nugent, Aaron Douglas, Adrian Oliver, Michael Dudley, Ciaran Garland, Michael Bradley (0-01), Pearse Donnelly, Simon Mc Donagh, Ryan Mc Nulty (0-03), Patrick Mc Bride (0-07), Conor Johnston (1-04), Matthew Fitzpatrick (1-00), Ciaran Johnston, Peter Mc Callin (1-00), Luke Peden.
Jack Hannigan for S Mc Donagh
Ciaran Mc Avoy (0-01) for L Peden
Russ Hannigan for A Douglas
Conal Mc Glade (0-01) for P Donnelly
Stephen Tierney for R Hannigan