Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship Final
Sunday 21st October at 3.30pm at Ahoghill
Erin’s Own Cargin v Kickham’s Creggan
Cargin man Geordie McGuckin previews Sunday’s historic final
All roads will lead to Clooney, Ahoghill on Sunday to catch a piece of history as football fans assemble to witness the first ever Antrim senior football championship final in living memory, to be contested between clubs from the South West division, as near neighbours, Erin’s Own Cargin and Kickham’s Creggan line out to decide the destination of the Mac Namee Cup.
An occasion to savour on a day which will be underlined in the annals of the Saffron County. The attraction of the meeting of near neighbours to determine Antrim senior champions has all the ingredients to attract a huge audience to the Ahoghill venue.
Although both the protagonists share the links of family connections within their respective ranks they are divided by a strong rivalry and the winner will hold the parish bragging rights for the next year at least.
Cargin’s James Laverty in action during the semi-final win over St Gall’s
The Creggan men have made progress in recent years under the watchful eye of former Antrim star Kevin Madden, but following several near misses in the recent past, including a couple of semi-final defeats, they have bridged a 41 year gap to make the senior final for the first time since they lined out against the Johnnies in the 1977 decider.
The Kickham’s, who were playing their football in Division 2 back then, had claimed senior titles in 1943 and 1954, but failed to cope with a very strong St John’s team on that last visit to a county senior final.
Creggan’s Conor Small in action during his team’s semi-final win over St John’s
Cargin have been more frequent visitors to county finals day, and since their breakthrough win in 1974 the Toome men have made their way into the senior decider on 17 more occasions, and although more often cast in the gut wrenching role of the bridesmaid they have given refuge to the Mac Namee trophy on seven occasions.
Erin’s Own last brought the Mac Namee trophy back to Toome in 2016 when they retained the title they had claimed the previous year but lost out to St John’s in the 2017 semi-final when the Corrigan Park based outfit dashed their dreams of three in a row.
Creggan have impressed this term and the Kickham’s men having already claimed silverware with the Division One league title, the O’ Cahan Cup, as well as the Reserve Cup already secured and are on course for a unique four timer.
They started in championship mode with a win over Ahoghill and although they did have to dig deep to get the better of the Clooney men in the opening round the previous season there was to be no repetition this time.
Ahoghill having progressed through the preliminary round with a hard earned win over St Brigid’s stayed in touch in the opening period, but that was to be as good as it was to get for the St Mary’s side as Kevin Madden’s men went on to dominate the second half and run out 4-13 to 0-08 winners to book a semi-final berth.
Last year’s beaten finalists St John’s who had clinically despatched St Teresa’s in a preliminary round affair provided the opposition for Creggan in the semi at a windy Chapel Hill venue, and although the South West side held a four point lead at the break, thanks mainly to a Sam Maguire goal, the advantage gained with the elements at their backs looked decidedly vulnerable with the strong wind against in the second period.
It was backs to the wall for Creggan in the closing thirty minutes as the Johnnies with county star Matthew Fitzpatrick leading the charge looked to battle back, but a clinically despatched Conor Small penalty strike added impetus to Madden’s men and despite the concession of a late goal they held on to breast the line at 2-09 to 1-10 and to claim their first final berth in 41 years.
Cargin appeared to have a tougher assignment than their near neighbours in their quest to make progress in the championship.
Damien Cassidy’s men had failed to impress in their league campaign and a lengthy injury list, which intervened to force the Bellaghy man to research the strength of his bench, when they faced up to the challenge posed by reigning champions Lamh Dhearg in the opening round.
The Hannahstown men having started in defence of their hard earned title with a 2-15 to 0-09 win gained over St Mary’s Aghagallon arrived in Creggan in good form, and indeed when a brace of Paddy Cunningham goals turned around a six point deficit the reigning champs looked on their way. A point up going into injury time the Cargin challenge appeared to be ending, despite dominating for large periods of the game, until an injury time Tomas Mc Cann point earned Cargin a second bite of the cherry.
Cargin made no mistake in the replay coming home with a 0-11 to 0-06 victory on the Corrigan sod to ensure a high profile semi-final game with St Gall’s and the huge attendance who travelled to the Creggan venue in expectation were not to be disappointed.
St Gall’s appeared be back to near their best this season, a fact underlined by finishing a very credible runner up in the All Ireland 7s competition at Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin a few weeks previous. The Milltown men had impressed again in their opening round win over Casement’s as they booked a much anticipated semi-final meeting with their biggest rivals Cargin.
In one of the best games of football seen in Antrim for many years Cargin appeared to be on their way out of the championship when facing a six point deficit late in the second half of a classic encounter. After trailing for long periods of the game a late Jamie Gribbin goal had seen the Cargin men draw abreast with the long blast imminent, but when Eoghan Mc Cabe and Michael Pollock responded with points for the Milltown men they seemed set for their first final since 2015. However a dramatic conclusion and an injury time ‘super strike’ saw Tomas Mc Cann score a wonder goal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a never to be forgotten finish.
Those who have monetary interest in predicting the results of such affairs would suggest that Cargin will enter the game as firm favourites to gain the day but although the Toome men seem to have had focus on the championship from the outset, and recent developments has seen the injury list shortened considerably, a close one is in prospect.
Creggan have taken home the O’ Cahan Cup at the expense of their neighbours in a keenly contested final, and last Sunday’s easy win over the Toome men has brought them to within touching distance of the league title. However Sunday’s final will be a whole different ball game.
A moment in history awaits and come Sunday evening the Mac Namee Cup will return once more to residence along the shores of Lough Neagh. However the big question is what side of the parish boundary will it reside of the next years and will be the ribbons be green and white or green and gold.