Creggan win but Cargin are league champions

ACFL Division 1A

Creggan 3-10 Cargin 2-12

Wednesday August 14

Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam

Creggan and Cargin played out a hugely entertaining, gripping and powerful game of football on Wednesday night.  Goals, penalties, sub plots with O’Cahan Cup and the league on the line.  This was just the game these two teams needed coming into the Championship.

In the end, a point from Sam Maguire in the third minute of injury time proved to be decisive as the Kickhams men won the battle but it was Cargin who won the war.  The home side needed to defeat Cargin by at least ten points to leapfrog their neighbours and retain their league crown and at half time that looked a real possibility.  Kevin Madden’s side scored three goals in the opening 30 minutes to hold a seven point lead at the short whistle – Odhran McLarnon and Tiernan McAteer finding the back of the Cargin net before a penalty from the impressive Conor Small just before half time put Creggan in control.

The Erin’s Own men were a different animal in the second half however and after trailing by eight points at one stage, led by one point 11 minutes after the restart.  Paul McCann finding the back of the net before a penalty from Tomás McCann put his side in the driving seat.

The Kickham’s men dug deep however in the time that remained to stem the wave of Cargin pressure.  As the darkness fell over Páirc Chiceam the home side mustered one last attack and when the ball fell wide on the left, Sam Maguire was the coolest man on the pitch.  It was by no means a ‘gimme’ and he was under pressure but the Creggan half back floated the ball over the black spot to earn the home side a moral boosting win.

In a tight opening, Creggan had an early edge with Conor Small and Odhran McLarnon looking lively on the edge of the square.  A brace of points from Paul and Tomás McCann (free) came either side of two points from Kevin Rice and Conor Small before a Ruairi McCann ’45 gave the home side the lead in the 10th minute.

The opening goal of the contest came in the next attack though and it’s one the Cargin players won’t want to watch again.  Conor Small’s attempted free dropped short and the Cargin defence failed to clear their lines.  The ball looped to the direction of McLarnon and the Creggan forward punched the ball to the back of the net.

Cargin responded well with Tomás McCann landing his second free of the match before Kevin McShane finished a flowing move through the hands to leave two between the sides midway through the first half.  Creggan hit back with a brace from Small (one free) and while Jamie Gribben fired over soon after, Creggan were on top and making better use of the ball with the second major giving them hope of overhauling the Cargin score difference that would see them awarded the league title.  Collecting a diagonal ball on the right, Tiernan McAteer was left with two Cargin defenders in front of him and an acute angle.  It didn’t stop the Creggan man firing a ferocious shot high and to the back of John McNabb’s net in the 25th minute.

Tomás McCann’s third free of the half was the Cargin reply but Creggan had the bit between their teeth and when McLarnon was felled inside the box, the home side had a penalty in the 30th minute.  Conor Small duly obliged from the resulting spot kick to leave eight between the sides going into injury time.  Tomás McCann fired over the last score of the half from a dead ball to leave Creggan ahead 3-5 to 0-7 at the short whistle.

Creggan were full value for their half time lead and looked on the verge of pulling off mission impossible.  Cargin didn’t have the answers to unlock a tight Creggan defence but they started the second half superbly.  Tempo, aggression, intensity, the Toome side brought it all after the restart and they had Creggan under pressure from the moment Brendan Toland restarted the game.

Mick McCann split the posts for the opening point of the second half before another Tomás McCann free.  Cargin were playing with a spring in their step now and got the goal that their early second half efforts deserved.  Paul McCann starting and finishing a fine move through the heart of the Creggan defence while giving Oisin Kerr no chance with his drive.

Creggan could barely get regrouped when they conceded a penalty.  Jamie Gribben upended and Tomás McCann taking his tally to 1-5 for the evening in the 41st minute and giving his side a one point lead.

Creggan staved the wave of Cargin pressure with Eunan McAteer firing over for their first point of the second half in the 43rd minute but they more than a glimpse of goal.  McAteer side stepping two Cargin challenges before blasting the ball goal wards only for his effort to go over the bar.  A brace of Small frees followed and the home side took a two point lead into the last ten minutes.

Both sides weren’t giving an inch in the closing stages with space, time and scoring chances at a premium.  Cargin did manage to get back on terms with Ciaran Bradley and Tomás McCann (free) firing over to restore parity with two minutes remaining.  David McGuckin and Tomás McCann’s first from open play left the sides tied for the fourth time in the match and brought the prospect of extra time with the match doubling up as the semi-final of the O’Cahan Cup.

Creggan and Sam Maguire had the final say however with the Kickham’s defender scoring a superb point fitting to win any match with the last meaningful action of the game.

Some ugly scenes threatened to mar the occasion after the final whistle but when calm was restored, both sides left the field satisfied with their efforts.  Cargin take the league honours once again while Creggan will look to built on this performance going into the championship.

TEAMS

Creggan: Oisin Kerr; Aidan Maguire, Ricky Johnston, Conor McCann; Sam Maguire, Ruairi McCann, Jamie McCann; Kevin Rice, Conor McCann; Eunan McAteer, David McGuckin, Fintan Burke; Odhran McLarnon, Conor Small, Tiernan McAteer.

Scorers: Conor Small 1-5 (1-00 pen, 3 f’s); Odhran McLarnon 1-00; Tiernan McAteer 1-00; David McGuckin 0-1; Eunan McAteer 0-1; Kevin Rice 0-1; Ruairi McCann 0-1; Sam Maguire 0-1.

Cargin: John McNabb; Donagh McKeever, Justin Crozier, Gerard McCorley; Tony Scullion, Marty Kane, James Laverty; Kevin McShane, John Carron; Paul McCann, Michael McCann, Ciaran Bradley; Tomás McCann, Pat Shivers, Jamie Gribben.

Scorers: 1-7 (1-00 pen, 6 f’s); Paul McCann 1-1; Kevin McShane 0-1; Michael McCann 0-1; Ciaran Bradley 0-1; Jamie Gribben 0-1.

Referee: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)

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