As Sunday’s Ulster club championship meeting with Gaoth Dobhair approaches the Saffron Gael speaks to Cargin’s Tony Scullion. Tony has been a mainstay of the Cargin defence for more than a decade and had a long and distinguished career with Antrim before stepping down in 2016.
A strong and superbly fit half-back who served his county through many tough times, perhaps the highlight of his county career was the superb goal he scored against Kerry in the All Ireland qualifiers in Tullamore in 2010.
A no nonsense defender, Tony’s the type of man you would want on your side going into a battle and has found a new lease of life since Damian Cassidy took over as manager at the start of this year. Scullion has looked very much at home as the holding player in front of his defence and his speed and movement often leaves him available for the ball out of defence.
A brother in law of Michael, Tomas and Paul McCann the hugely popular, no nonsense Scullion can often be seen at his best when things get physical and could be a vital player if Cargin are to advance against a fancied Gaoth Dobhair at Corrigan on Sunday.
Tony has played in five of the Erin’s Own’s eight championship successes and credits his exceptional fitness to the amount of road running he has done over the winter. The Toomebridge building contractor took up road running a couple of years ago and took to it like a duck to water.
He decided to hang up his county boots after a long career and with a young family was finding it increasingly difficult to give the time and commitment. “At 36 I decided it would be hard to do both. I suppose in my younger playing days the county football helps your club career but as the years roll on its only fair to give back what’s left in your legs to your club.
Always a man with a quick wit, I put the question to Tony, “Cargin have won three of the last four championships in Antrim but have failed to perform on the Ulster stage, what if anything is different”.
Quick as lightning he relied with a wry smile. “The Cargin social club ran out of drink this year after the final due to the extensive renovations going on”
In a roundabout way Tony believes that a long spate of injuries during the league may have benefited his team in the long run. “The management team of Damian Cassidy and Ronan Devlin nursed those players slowly back to fitness with the bigger picture of the championship in mind”.
This necessitated the introduction of quite a number of young players so the squad is stronger as a result and more competition for places can only be healthy”
I put it to Tony “You looked to be heading out of the championship in your opening game against Lamh Dhearg before that late equalising point and after impressing in the replay against the Hannastown men at Corrigan you again came back at the death against St. Gall’s. Do you think Cargin’s name was on the cup after that”?
He answered “I’ve been defeated in too many championship finals to prematurely print any names on the cup until the final whistle is blown”
When I asked him what he knew about Gaoth Dobhair the quick wit returned as he replied “well I know they mainly speak Irish”
I put it to him “The match has been fixed for Corrigan. The Whiterock Road ground should hold fond memories for you. It was there you beat St. Gall’s in the final in 2015 and of course you have represented Antrim there on a number of occasions. How do you feel about the venue”?
Again his answer was short and to the point “Personally to me grass is grass, no matter where the venue is it’s always a privilege to line out with the Cargin crest on your chest”
I put it to Tony “the team have not done themselves and their support justice in previous Ulster campaigns. Do you think previous experience coupled with the new management will stand you in good stead this time”?
He answered “The thing about football is anything can happen on the day of a game, if we express ourselves as a team and play as we know we can, it certainly could be interesting”.
Whatever happens on Sunday one thing is for certain. Tony Scullion will be in the thick of the action giving his all and like most Antrim Gaels we at the Saffron Gael wish him and his team every success on the day.