By Brendan McTaggart
Last year, he was described as a Rolls Royce by his manager after Cargin defeated Creggan in the championship final. On Saturday afternoon, Michael McCann was beside Damien Cassidy on the side line for extra time. 20 minutes that would make or break their championship and Cargin’s ‘go-to’ man was benched and injured. From a Rolls Royce to cheer leader and the Erins Own Captain was a picture of relief and elation at the final whistle.
In a tense ending to the hour and extra time, McCann told us his thoughts had moved to what may have happened if the sides were tied at the end of the additional 20 minutes: “We were getting ready for penalties at one point. We just had that feeling and you’d nearly think everyone bought into it at one point.
“Games like this stand by you. These are the games you want going into an Ulster championship. Whoever came out of today’s game, this was the type of game they would have wanted. Close, tight, point for point. You learn more from them than a nine or ten point hammering of somebody.
“We got through St Galls and we were good but I feel we weren’t ourselves for the last couple of matches. We were wasteful and that’s not like us but we scored some good scores. They hit us on the break but this was brilliant for us. It will stand by us.”
Cargin made the perfect start to the replay with Tomás McCann taking advantage of indecision from a Lámh Dhearg kick out. Mick told us it was something they worked on after the drawn game: “The first couple of days last week, we were a bit worried. I watched that match maybe five or six times and you began to see the small things that made the difference.
“We tried to nail the kick outs and in the first half I thought we done that. The first goal came from that and we tried to get our matchups better and I think we done that. That’s all we really done, we didn’t do much more than that but it took a few days.
“We were gutted with our performance last week. Lámh Dhearg deservedly, probably should have won last week in my opinion. We got out of jail. Tomás and Paul (McCann) and a few others kind of dragged us over the line.
“Despite being the ones who got out of jail, we were down and it was hard to pick up from that. I thought we learned plenty though. The matchups, I don’t think there was as much influence from certain people but how it went to, I don’t know how many minutes were added on, I just don’t know.”
It was the cause for much frustration with eight minutes added at the end of the hour and another five at the end of extra time. The Cargin captain shared in that frustration when he added: “I genuinely and I would love to ask Darren (McKeown), where those eight and a half minutes came from. There wasn’t an event or one injury in that second half that merited that time. Considering we had a man who done his knee in the first half, he was down for five minutes and he only played three.
“That was playing in our heads and throwing away the lead was playing in our heads. It took a lot to lift the lads coming out for extra time and they conceded first but they still came back again.”
McCann lauded the impact of the substitutions made for his side with his teammates stepping up when Cargin needed leaders: “Boys like Kevin McShane coming in, catching two throw ins and kicking two screamers from 35 or 40 yards.
“Michael Clarke hasn’t played any championship football this year. He came in and had a stormer at wing half forward. Kevin McShane only played five or ten minutes last week and Kieran Close hit three or four points when he came on.
“The bench was the big difference. I think our subs contributed five or six points and that was the difference, we had a bit more on the bench. Albeit we were unlucky with a few, we lost Paul (McCann) to a black card who was brilliant last week and I had to go off injured and we had to change things there.”
Thoughts soon turned to this weekend with Derrygonnelly travelling to Corrigan Park for the preliminary round of the Ulster club championship. McCann telling us: “We haven’t talked about it. The only thing we ever said was we wanted another go at it and I’m sure Lámh Dhearg are saying the same. They didn’t do themselves justice against Cavan Gaels. We just want another go at it. We think we’re good enough.
“Your county championships are always a bit more heated and a bit more pressure than when you come up against teams you don’t know. Teams you’re not playing week in and week out.
“We have a lot of good players and a lot of youth coming in. We have a lad there who played in the minor final last Sunday and came in and played a stormer this week. We have a few other lads there as well, I think it’s a good mix.
“Maybe the pressure off will help. It was the same last year with the local rivalry and Creggan. You’re nearly playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win. Hopefully we’ll do ourselves justice.
“Last year, when you watch it back. We had ten minutes of madness where we conceded three goals before half time and gave us an uphill battle.
“Maybe we wouldn’t have put in the second half we did if we weren’t faced with that so it’s hard to know. We just feel like we didn’t do ourselves justice. Gaoth Dobhair and Kevin Cassidy said himself that maybe they shouldn’t have got out of Belfast that day and they went on and won it. We just want to try and rectify that.
“We’ve had tough draws in Ulster. Out of the last three times, two of them have won it and the other went to the final and bar last year the others have been away. We just want another go at an Antrim venue and maybe give Ulster a bit of a go.”
Cargin have just over a week to celebrate this championship success and prepare for the Fermanagh champions. McCann doesn’t think tiredness will be an issue before commenting on the injury that saw him replaced at the end of the hour: “You look at Lamh Dhearg and its sharpness if I’m being brutally honest. I didn’t see much tiredness out there today, even the way they started extra time. The pace they have is frightening and we have too.
“At the end of the day I don’t think it will affect us. The only thing it will affect is if there’s a couple of niggles. Everyone will be looking to go out and play football.
“It’s nipping and it might be cramp, I see a few boys struggling with it. I’m not sure whether your hamstring cramps that much but I should be alright with a few Budweiser in me.”