Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship (Final)
Erin’s Own Cargin 0-05 Kickham’s Creggan 0-04
A well fashioned 52nd minute point confidently despatched by Michael Mc Cann proved the decider as Erin’s Own Cargin claimed their eighth senior title at the expense of near neighbours Kickham’s Creggan in a low scoring final at Ahoghill on Sunday.
Certainly not one for the purists and only a pale shadow of the epic semi final encounter a couple of weeks previous when the Toome men edged out St Gall’s in what some proclaimed was the best they had witnessed, but few in Cargin faithful were heard to grumble as they set about rejoicing in celebration of the third visit of the MacEntee Cup to the banks of the river Bann in four years.
One of the faithful who took time off from back slapping as he congratulated his heroes made comment that he would hear no criticism at the content of the game and proclaimed that he had shed a tear or two down through the years as he had watched Cargin finish in the unwanted runners up berth despite producing fare taken right from the top drawer.
‘Erin’s Own have endured defeat in no less than ten senior county finals in the past twenty odd years and we will cherish this victory to the full, and adding with a wink of the eye, sure there won’t be a wean fed or washed in around Toome for at least three days.
Michael McCann holds the cup aloft after his team’s win. Pic by John McIlwaine
With the early rain gone and a stiff northerly breeze sweeping across the Cloney pitch the scene was set for this history making all South West Senior football championship decider as near neighbours, and the keenest of rivals, Erin’s Own Cargin lined out to decide the destination of the MacEntee trophy 2018.
Cargin entered the fray as short priced favourites but more than a few pundits were not to be convinced and expressed an opinion that Kevin Madden’s Creggan were more than well enough equipped to upset the odds.
Cargin opened with an early score as Gerard Mc Cann seized the opening throw-in, and after the leather passed through the hands of Michael Mc Cann, Jamie Gribbin and John Carron full forward Michael Magill delivered between the post in stylish finish.
A superb opening score which hinted at better to come but in the event those who would anticipate much more of the same were to be disappointed as the scoreboard attendants would be offered little employment thereafter in what was to become a war of attrition in which the fear of losing rather than the pursuit of victory seemed utmost.
With teams adopting ultra-defensive mode scores were hard to come by and so it proved with the scoreboard operator employed just four time throughout the opening half.
Creggan’s Marty Johnston in action after being introduced as a sub early in the game. Pic by John McIlwaine
The Kickham’s drew alongside their opponents at the 11th minute when Liam Quinn’s on the wing earned a free which Kevin Small planted firmly between the posts to tie things up at one apiece, but Creggan were forced into early change as Martin Johnston was called on to replace Matthew Rodgers and was soon to be involved as he sent Liam Quinn scampering away on the left hand side before being halted in stride to allow Kevin Small to send the left sided award over the bar.
Creggan had edged ahead but not for long as a James Laverty clearance and a Tony Scullion delivery sent Ciaran Bradley away on the right hand side to send over the bar to make it 0-02 apiece.
The latter stages of the opening period saw the scoreboard attendants remain redundant as both missed opportunity to increase their respective tallies with both Cargin net minder John McNabb just wide from a 60 metre free whilst Kevin Small sent a 31st minute free off target and it remained 0-02 apiece at the short blast.
A dour opening period and no doubt the vociferous support numbering 5 or 6000 in the Ahoghill venue looked forward to better in the second.
In the event the second thirty minutes continued in the same intensity as the first but after both Tomas McCann and Conor Small fired just wide of their target at either end the former produced a moment of magic as he delivered between the posts from an acute angle out on the right after Jamie Gribbin had found him with a neat pass.
Nineteen year old Gribbin in his first senior year continues to impress in his work rate and vision and together with 19 year old Ciaran Bradley look young men with futures in the green and white.
Bradley made it 0-04 to 0-02 when he claimed a James Laverty clearance to make ground on the right hand side before firing between the posts in the 39th minute and for a spell It appeared that the favourites might be gaining the upper hand.
It was not to be as Creggan, without a score since the 17th minute when early replacement Marty Johnston, who had been prominent since his introduction, dashed forward to finish with a flourish as his ‘outside of the boot’ delivery from distance bagged an excellent 42nd minute point.
The Kickham’s men looked on the positive at this juncture and when mid-fielder Conor McCann shrugged aside the challenge of several defenders to add another, fisting the ball between the posts, they suddenly appeared to be gaining an edge.
An intense energy sapping contest was taking toll on the participants however and several changes were required in both camps as the game entered the last quarter.
The next score would most likely prove vital and indeed some had thoughts on a replay as the clock ticked down, but cometh the hour, cometh the man and man of the match Michael McCann retained both his cool and his accuracy to raise a 51st minute white flag which was to prove crucial
Battle of the McCann’s as Creggan’s Conor McCann is challenged by Cargin’s Michael in an aerial battle for possession. Pic by John McIlwaine
Ciaran Bradley, Kevin McShane and Jamie Gribbin had all been involved in the left sided approach before the ball was delivered to the team captain, and though he was closed down by the Creggan defence, a little burst of pace created the opening to deliver a superb strike between the posts.
The last phase was to see no further scores as the Cargin rear guard which oft times involved the participation of net-minder John McNabb took opportunity to ‘keep ball’ at every opportunity and run down the clock.
Creggan did have a late opportunity to earn a second chance but a late, injury time Kevin Small left sided free from 48 metres went agonisongly wide of the posts. There was a further chance deep in injury time when Creggan were awarded a free from about fifty metres on the right but instead of having a go, or dropping the ball ‘in around the house’ the decided to go short and eventually lost possession as Damien Cassidy’s men crossed the finish line with a 0-05 to 0-04 advantage and on their way to the podium to be crowned senior champions 2018.
Cargin veteran Tony Scullion collected his fifth medal in today’s win
Referee Karol Doherty (Rasharkin)
John Mc Nabb, Donnach Mc Keever, Kevin O’Boyle, Marty Kane, Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier, James Laverty, Gerard Mc Cann, Michael Mc Cann (0-01), Ciaran Bradley (0-02), Jamie Gribbin, John Carron, Enda Mc Grogan, Michael Magill (0-01) , Tomas Mc Cann (0-01)
Kieran Close for J Carron
David Johnston for E Mc Grogan
Gerard Mc Corley for K O’ Boyle
Kevin Mc Shane for G Mc Cann
Oisin Kerr, Aiden Maguire, Richard Johnston, Connor og Mc Cann, Sam Maguire, Thomas Mc Cann, Ruairi Mc Cann, Conor Mc Cann (0-01), Kevin Rice, Odhran Mc Larnon, Kevin Small (0-02), Fintan Burke, Matthew Rodgers, Connor Small, Liam Quinn
Martin Johnston (0-01) for M Rodgers
Tiarnan Mc Ateer for O Mc Larnon
David Mc Guckin for F Burke