Antrim Senior Football Championship (final)
Erin’s Own Cargin 1-22 Kickham’s Creggan 1-19 (aet)
‘The old dog for the hard road’, is the old adage and it certainly rang true in the final of a thrill a minute Antrim senior football championship decider at Kelly Park today as a 72nd minute goal from Kieran Close proved the turning point in an absorbing contest
The nimble 36 year old fired home from close range after being placed in the clear by Jimmy Gribbin to put a bit of daylight between the sides for the first time since the 7th minute.
Nothing had separated the near neighbours in an absorbing sixty minutes of football which thrilled the restricted attendance with the side’s level on six occasions.
A Tomas McCann point near the end of normal time looked to have ensured another title for the Toome men but Ruairi McCann replied at the other end to make it 0-16 to 0-16 and send the game into extra time.
Creggan led at the end of the first extra ten minutes as points from replacements, Paddy Coey and David Mc Guckin ensured a one point advantage but Mark Kelly and Jamie Gribbin combined to set up Kieran Close who finished to the net in style to put his side in the driving seat.
Further scores from Close, Pat Shivers, and Kevin ‘Kobo’ O’ Boyle saw Cargin move five in front but the Kickham’s replied with a late goal from replacement Odhran McLarnon to keep their fading hopes alive.
Michael McCann rose to collect the resultant kick out and send Kevin O’ Boyle on his way to raise white at the other end to ensure that there would be no way back for the gallant Creggan.
Keen rivals Erin’s Own Cargin and Kickham’s Creggan lined out in perfect conditions in the first ever senior championship final played at the splendid Kelly Park, Portglenone today.
The weather man had played his part to the full on this occasion and those in attendance were treated to one of the best finals in recent times.
Cargin, in search of a first ever ‘three in a row’ began in the manner of defending champions with an early score from Tomas McCann with only 30 seconds on the clock.
The same player went on to add a further three points in the opening six minutes to ensure a 0-04 to 0-00 advantage and his side threatened to run away with it at this stage.
Creggan in contrast were having difficulty in settling as the usually reliable Ruairi McCann missed a couple of opportunities to get his side’s opening score.
Slowly the challengers settled however and McCann got them on their way with a point in the 11th minute as he converted a 30 metre free and this score seemed to settle the Kickham’s.
Jamie McCann followed with back to back points in the 12th and 13th minutes and Creggan were on their way and further points from Conor Small and the resurgent Ruairi McCann saw them 0-05 to 0-04 ahead at the first water break.
Creggan were well on top at this stage and extended their lead to three with points from Tiernan Mc Ateer, and Conor McCann, their seventh point without reply. The corner forward’s strike was artistic in the extreme whilst the mid fielder followed a strong approach with an eye catching finish.
Cargin looked to have lost their way but they were back on track again when a James Laverty clearance and a heavy challenge on Jamie Gribbin allowed Pat Shivers to despatch the resultant free between the posts.
Gribbin then combined with Kevin McShane to open the way for Ciaran Bradley who raced away on the left before sending over.
The Erin’s Own men were now back on the ascendancy after a spell in the doldrums and a super Pat Shivers point was followed by another from Paul McCann.
Kevin Rice replied with a Creggan point to edge his side back ahead but another foul on the advancing Gribbin saw Pat Shivers level the contest again to ensure parity at the half way stage at 0-09 apiece.
Creggan were first to register at the start of the second half as replacement Matthew Rogers announced his arrival with a point but Michael McCann replied to level matters again before Brendan Laverty came forward to follow suit.
Cargin’s lead was short lived as Ruairi McCann raced forward to split the posts in the 36th minute and he followed suit from a free a couple of minutes later to edge his side ahead again.
It was end to end to end stuff as a Ciaran Bradley score brought the Toome side level once more before a slick combination involving the McCann’s, Paul Michael and Gerard opened the way for the former to edge his side 0-13 to 0-12 ahead at the end of the third quarter.
Creggan were back on terms once more through a Ruairi Mc Cann pointed free in the 46th minute and Jamie McCann followed with another to edge the Kickham’s ahead once more.
Cargin were soon back on terms again as Pat Shivers fired and then a foul on Kieran Close was duly punished when Tomas McCann deliver between the posts and the lead had changed hands once again as spectators from both sides roared their approval.
It looked anybody’s game as play continued to swing from end to end and Ruairi Mc Cann held his nerve to send between the posts to leave it 0-16 to 0-16 at the end of an absorbing sixty minutes to send the game into extra time.
It was the reigning champions who were first off the mark at the start of extra time as Tomas McCann raised an early white following a foul on the impressive Michael McCann but back came the challengers with back to back points from Ruairi McCann and substitute Paddy Coey to hit the front again.
A great Jamie Gribbin point ensured parity once more but a point from substitute David Mc Guckin ensured Creggan enjoyed a slender one point lead at the end of the first period of extra time.
The second half commenced in dramatic fashion as Mark Kelly sent Jamie Gribbin away on the left and he found Kieran Close Kieran Close who fired past Oisin Kerr to give his side a two point lead.
Gribbin was injured shortly after following a heavy challenge and forced to retire with Close following with a point to edge the champions three in front and when Pat Shivers followed with another they had opened up a four point gap.
Cargin were well on the way but Creggan kept battling on and were rewarded when Odhran McLarnon grabbed a late goal but time was against them and Kevin O’ Boyle responded with a late point to ensure there would be no way back for the gallant losers.
Cargin had completed a first ever three in a row and their 10th title in all while Creggan will have to wait another year as they attempt to put a long drought behind them but on the evidence of today that is not beyond them in the not too distant future.
Cargin: John Mc Nabb, Kevin O’ Boyle (0-02), Justin Crozier, Brendan Laverty (0-01), David Johnston, James Laverty, Paul Mc Cann (0-01), Kevin Mc Shane, Michael Mc Cann (0-01), Ciaran Bradley (0-03), Pat Shivers (0-05), John Carron, Jamie Gribbin (0-01), Tomas Mc Cann (0-07), Enda Mc Grogan
Gerard Mc Cann for E Mc Grogan
Marty Kane for D Johnston
Kieran Close (1-01) for J Carron
Sean og O’ Neill for
Mark Kelly for G Mc Cann
Michael Clarke for Kieran Close
Michael Magill for Jamie Gribbin
Creggan: Oisin Kerr, Aiden Maguire, Ricky Johnston, Eunan Mc Ateer, Sam Maguire, Martin Johnston, Jamie Mc Cann (0-03), Kevin Rice (0-01), Conor Mc Cann (0-01), Ruairi Mc Cann (0-07), Kevin Small, Fiontan Burke, Tiernan Mc Ateer (0-01), Conor Small (0-01), Conor Og McCann
Matthew Rogers (0-01) for F Burke
Liam Quinn for T Mc Ateer
Tommy Mc Cann for A Maguire
Paddy Cory (0-01) for S Maguire
David Mc Guckin (0-01) for K Small
Odhran Mc Larnon (1-00) for E Mc Ateer
Referee B Toland (Lamh Dhearg)