Ulster Senior football club championship preview

Geordie McGuckin previews Cargin’s Ulster SFC opener against Gaoth Dobhair

Erin’s Own Cargin v Gaoth Dobhair (Donegal)

Corrigan Park Sunday (2-30)

Cargin start their journey on the Provincial trail on Sunday as the Antrim champions take on their counterparts from Donegal. The highly rated Gaoth Dobhair make the long journey to Corrigan Park on Sunday and will start as firm favourites.

The men from the Gaeltach region made their way through the group stages of the Donegal championship with wins over both Michael Murphy’s Glenswilly, the 2016 champions and then the reigning champions from Glenties before easily dismissing the challenge of Bundoran and an easy semi-final success over Sean Mac Cumhaill’s concluding their path to the final.

Having beaten the men from the Glenties in the group stage the Naomh Conaill men were fully expected to provide a stiffer test for Gaoth Dobhair in the decider, but although the opening period proved close, Gaoth Dobhair hit the ground running in the second half and powered their way to an impressive victory.

More than a few observers have been duly impressed as have the bookmakers, making the Donegal champions favourites to take the title and bring home the Seamus Mc Ferran trophy to the “Hills of Donegal”.

Cargin have obviously not caught the eye of the pundits nor indeed the bookmaking fraternity and the Antrim champions are quoted at odds of around 7/2 to win on Sunday which is similar to the odds quoted by the same source for Gaoth Dobhair going all the way in Ulster this year.

The Toome men have improved steadily through this year’s championship in a campaign in which they had to rely on a super Tomas McCann injury time strike to deny St Gall’s in a semi-final tie which proved memorable in the extreme.

They required a replay to get past reigning champions Lamh Dhearg in the quarter final, and their 0-05 to 0-04 win over their near neighbours Kickham’s Creggan in the final before a huge audience will not reside long in the memory. Few in the Erin’s Own club will grumble however as the MacNamee trophy resides for another term on the banks of the river Bann.

The Toome men certainly have a hard core of individuals who have been there and done it with club and county but Damien Cassidy has introduced a good number of youngsters and given game time aplenty to the likes of Ciaran Bradley, Michael Clarke, Jamie Gribbin, David Johnston and Jamie Kennedy.

The present Cargin teams are far from strangers to the Ulster Championship and although they have exited in the opening round in the recent past, the likes of Michael, Paul and Tomas McCann, Justin Crozier, Kevin O’ Boyle, Tony Scullion, James Laverty, Gerard McCann, Ciaran Close and Michael Magill, have experienced life on the Provincial trail.

They lost out to Monaghan champions Clontibret in ’06 after a replay and again in 2015 when they were beaten by Crossmaglen at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, but the Toome men did not go down without a fight in that one. They will point to one or two questionable decisions in that game and the loss of mid-fielder Gerard McCann to a red card early in the second half.

Ciaran Bradley, John McNabb and Michael McCann hoping for success on Sunday

Gaoth Dobhair haven’t won a championship  in Donegal for twelve years prior to this year’s success and may lack experience on the Ulster route but former county regulars Kevin Cassidy, the McGee brothers Neil and Eamon, Chris McFadden, Odhran McFadden, Odhran McNiallais, Cian Mulligan and Daire O’Boill have all impressed on their way to the Donegal title.

The rise to prominence of Gaoth Dobhair has coincided with the arrival of new blood in the ranks as the likes of the O’ Baoill brothers, Naoishe and Odhran Mc Ferran, Cian Mulligan, and Michael Carroll all figured prominently in the Creggan sponsored Ulster club under-21 championship this year where they lifted the Paddy McLarnon Cup.

They will make the long journey of 120 plus miles on Sunday in a confident mood and are likely to take a big support with them but as a team many of them will be dipping their toes in the waters of Ulster competition for the first time. Donegal teams as a whole have enjoyed little joy in this competition with Ballybofey’s Sean Mac Cumhaill’s being the single recipient of the Seamus Mc Ferran trophy to date, way back in 1975.

The Cargin men will not be bothered by the tag of underdogs and Damien Cassidy and his assistant Ronan Devlin will have their charges well prepared for this one on a ground in which they always seem at  ease.

Gaoth Dobhair will arrive at Corrigan expected to advance to the next round but the Cargin men have got better and better as the year advanced and have the balance of youth and experience to upset the odds.

Marty Kane, Tony Scullion and Michael Magill bring a lot of experience to the Cargin side.





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