Can Cargin make the step up to Ulster success?

Ulster club football championship preliminary round

Erin’s Own Cargin v Derrygonnelly Harps

Corrigan Park (Sunday 2-30)

‘Is there nothing at all, only football in the lives of those people from Toome’, was the comment made by a less than enthusiastic bystander as the Cargin captain, Sean Og Quinn strode forward to accept the silverware following his sides victory in the Minor football championship at Corrigan park a couple of weeks past.

The remark passed by an individual who was obviously at the West Belfast arena supporting Cargin’s opponents in the under-18 decider was presented in sarcasm, and not without a touch of vitriol towards their country cousins, but in content was not without merit.

There is no boat club in Toome despite the close proximity to a wide picturesque sandy bay in which not a single yacht is moored, and similarly not a tennis ball is ever delivered on the lush lawn of a tennis club, or a curiously shaped ‘football’ sent between the tall posts on a rugby pitch, and a couple of generations has passed since there was a ‘soccer team’ in the village.

If you do take a dander up Toome street and take a right at the end of the village on to the Shore road you will find yourself at the grounds of Erin’s Own Cargin, a formidable unit of Cumann Luthchleas Gael founded on the dreams of a fresh faced young priest assigned to the parish of Cargin in a time of turbulence in Ireland.

Father Dan Maginnis, a native of Belfast arrived to take residence at the parish and was to get together with a few likeminded locals to provide the spark to light a flame which has grown to a beacon over the generations and lead the club to the forefront of affairs in the Saffron County.

One of those who got together with the enthusiastic young curate and likeminded locals in the formation of the new unit of the Association was the local schoolteacher one Mr O’ Connor formerly of County Cork whose suggestion on giving the club the name, Erin’s Own was accepted, and thus the story which was to have many chapters, began in 1923.

A local club Lamh Dhearg had captured the Antrim championship a few years prior to the formation of Erin’s Own and such success had most likely provided inspiration but in the event this unit failed to build on their success and folded less than a generation later.

The Erin’s Own club was based in and around the Cargin area on several locations in their early years, but success on the field of play proved elusive in the formative years and it was after moving to their present base at the Shore road in Toome in the early 1950s that they tasted success taking the Junior football title in 1953.

It would be a while in waiting before Cargin made the breakthrough in the blue riband competition and a full 21 years before a first senior crown was worn in 1974 with a follow up not achieved until 1995.

The club were progressing on an upward curve both in development and on the field of play with the backing of a local company ‘Thornton Roofing’ secured and as the end of the millennium approached they added a couple more senior titles and the future looked bright.

Further development to include a second floodlight pitch and an Astor- turf facility in the new millennium followed, and when Michael McCann raised the Mac Namee trophy aloft last week following an epic victory gained over Lamh Dhearg the Toome men had completed a league and championship double supplemented by a minor title to complete a seldom achieved unique treble in the Saffron county.

By such juncture Erin’s Own had their name inscribed nine times on the Mac Namee trophy.

People in Cargin eat and breath football. They are fanatics about the game and turn out in big numbers to support their teams wherever they are playing and Corrigan can be guaranteed another massive influx from the village come Sunday.

Damien Cassidy’s men will now seek to dust themselves down and get themselves ready for another challenge looming large on the horizon as they prepare for a Provincial opener as they face Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly Harps in the Ulster Club championship at the same venue on Sunday.

The Antrim champs will hope to have shaken off the effects of a gruelling 80 minutes in that ‘extra time’ victory in last week-end’s thriller at Corrigan and injuries to the Mc Cann’s, Gerard and Michael who were forced out of the thrill a minute action at the west Belfast venue.

On a positive note, and as the old adage states, ‘any team is only as strong as its bench’ such strength in depth was more than evident in their win last week when those called upon as replacements really answered the call.

The Toome men have not made much impression on the Ulster trail in the past with a single win gained over the Tyrone representatives Carrickmore way back in 1999 their only success.

They did ask questions of Crossmaglen that year in the semi-finals with a late controversial call aiding the Armagh champions, who went on to take the All Ireland title that year.

Last year, despite a slow start and the concession of three first half goals they really staged a strong second half come-back against the Donegal representatives Gaoth Dobhair but all the damage had been done in the opening 30 minutes.

Gaoth Dobhair went on to lift the Ulster title before losing out in the All Ireland semi-final so the club can certainly take positives from last year’s performance but will be keen not to concede goals this Sunday.

Derrygonnelly Harps provide the Erin’s Own with another stiff test. The Fermanagh champions have just collected their fifth county championship in succession but like Cargin they haven’t quite managed to make the step up on the Ulster stage as yet.

They did reach an Ulster semi-final a couple of years ago but lost out to Cavan Gaels after a replay and were unfortunate to have come up against Slaughtneil in their two previous campaigns and will see Sunday’s game as an opportunity to make the breakthrough.

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy was glowing about the character of his side in an interview with the Saffron Gael this week as he led them to a second county championship in his two years at the helm.

It’s that character and never say die spirit that can get them over Sunday’s hurdle. Cassidy stated that he would have preferred to have had Lamh Dhearg’s momentum going into the drawn game and he was proved correct.

That momentum will be with the Toome men on Sunday and a Corrigan Park filled with some of the most vociferous spectators in the county can inspire them to a first Ulster win in two decades.

John McNabb, Justin Crozier, James Laverty, Marty Kane, Michael, Paul and Tomas McCann with Michael Magill bring experience and composure to Cargin’s Ulster campaign but under Damian Cassidy and his management team a number of promising youngsters have emerged.

Pat Shivers, Jimmy Gribbin and Ciaran Bradley were prominent in last Saturday’s success and are all likely to start on Sunday. The return of Kevin O’Boyle from a long term injury and the scoring prowess of Kieran Close when sprung from the bench has been another bonus.

Cargin will probably start Sunday’s Ulster preliminary round encounter as underdogs but that will surely suit them and thewy look more than capable of winning this one. As Tony Scullion, who inspired and delivered again last week end commented,  ‘The thing about our club is that although we come from a small community we will always give everything for the cause and fight to the death’.

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