Experienced campaigners McCann and Cunningham could have a major influence on Sunday’s replay


mgm copy-CarginSenior Football Championship (quarter-final) Replay

Sunday 30th September Corrigan Park (1.00pm)

Lamh Dhearg v Erin’s Own Cargin

Darren McKeown blew the full time whistle on Sunday after Lamh Dhearg and Erin’s Own, Cargin played out a draw in the Antrim SFC quarter-final in Creggan but much of the media interest since has focused on the demands on county players and matters regarding the time and commitment required and the effects on their mental health.

Cargin’s Michael McCann, who gave a lifetime of excellent service to his county before stepping away from the county scene last year, despite being 33 was the outstanding performer on Sunday past while another former Antrim ‘veteran’, Paddy Cunningham played a major part in Lamh Dhearg’s come-back.

Although the focus of most attention at the week-end will centre on the semi-finals of the senior hurling championship no doubt the football fraternity will look forward to goings on at Corrigan Park on Sunday as Lamh Dhearg and Cargin cross swords again.

A big attendance is anticipated; weather permitting, at the West Belfast venue with the throw in time of 1.00pm.

These sides met last week at Creggan but after a thrilling encounter which kept the big crowd fully entertained right up to the final whistle nothing separated them on the scoreboard. A late Paddy Cunningham goal turned the game on its head and the reigning champs looked set for the semis after the Toome men had led from flag-fall.

Cargin dominated the opening period and looked on their way at the break holding a 0-09 to 0-03 lead but a 35th minute Paddy Cunningham goal restored confidence within the ranks of the Hannahstown men and when the corner forward added another major, just as the game clock reached the allotted sixty minutes the Mairtin Lynch led ‘Red Hands’ looked on their way.

Damien Cassidy’s side were not finished however and when Tomas McCann stepped forward to slot a 63rd minute free kick between the posts the 2015/16 champions were back in business. Both the sides will head to Corrigan and reflect on what might have been in the Creggan affair.

Cargin, having dominated for most of the opening half hour and holding what looked a winning 0-09 to 0-03 lead at the break, will feel they should have kicked on in the second half but the concession of that 35th minute goal, which arrived literally ‘out of the blue’ seemed to knock them for six and when Paddy Cunningham grabbed a second just on the brink of injury time the Toome men looked down and out. Tomas McCann’s held his nerve and his injury time point means both sides have it all to do again on Sunday.

Lamh Dhearg will also reflect with mixed emotions on a day when their tenure as county champions looked likely to end up until that late Cunningham strike opened the door to the semi-finals only for Tomas McCann to shut it again with that injury time strike.

The Hannahstown men ,who were forced to start without the long term injured Conor Murray and championship tied Donal Nugent,  have reported an otherwise  clean bill of health for the trip to the Whiterock and it is likely the Mairtin Lynch led Red Hands will field along similar lines.

Cargin will not at all be uncomfortable at the West Belfast venue but  Damian Cassidy will again be hampered by what remains a quite lengthy injury list and he will be no doubt be more than concerned that Tomas McCann is struggling to overcome an ankle injury. McCann reported to training on Wednesday evening unable to participate and his participation must remain in some doubt. The return of the suspended Gerard McCann will undoubtedly bolster Cargin’s chances.

Whether being relieved of the pressures demanded of being a county player influenced the performance of Michael McCann or Paddy Cunningham or not last week is a matter of speculation. McCann has been excellent for his club over the past two years and on Sunday showed an appetite for the game that should be an example to many of those around him while Cunningham remains one of the deadliest finishers in the local game and both could have a major influence on the final result on Sunday.

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