Underdogs Cargin in with a serious shout

Ulster Club football championship semi-final

Glen Maghera v Erin’s Own Cargin

Healey Park Omagh-Sunday 1-30pm

Following an excellent win over Naomh Conaill of Donegal in the quarter-final of the Ulster football club championship Antrim champions, Erin’s own Cargin face what looks like an even more formidable task when they take on Glen, Maghera in this Sunday’s semi-final in Omagh.

The Toome men displayed tremendous character a fortnight ago at Corrigan Park as they staged a number of comebacks before beating the Glenties side in a penalty shootout.

The Donegal champions led 0-6 to 0-3 at half time and despite a strong second half comeback by the Toome side, still led by three as the game crept into time added on. Cargin pressed hard in the closing minutes and won a ‘45’ with Michael McCann hitting a short kick to brother Tomas and his inviting lob ended in the Naomh Conaill net as Kevin McShane rose brilliantly to fist the ball home.

McShane was to make another telling contribution at the end of extra time when he came up to show his forwards how it was done by firing over the levelling score to bring the game to penalties.

John McNabb, who has been in inspired form for Cargin this season became the Cargin hero when he saved two of the Naomh Conaill penalties while Michael McCann, Tomas McCann and youngster Cahir Donnelly tucked away their spot kicks to send Cargin through to Sunday’s semi-final.

It hadn’t been the first time this season that the Toome side were forced to dig deep into their reserves of character as it took extra time to separate them and neighbours Creggan in the Antrim semi-final and again against Aghagallon in the final.

The win over Naomh Conaill will surely have tasted the sweetest as it got the Monkey of Ulster first round defeats finally off their backs and they will go into Sunday’s semi-final against the Derry champions with absolutely nothing to lose.

They will start that one as massive underdogs in the eyes of most punters as they face a Maghera side who collected their second Derry title in succession with a win over former Ulster champions, Slaughtneil and their performance in that game was impressive.

Their1-12 to 0-07 victory over Slaughtneil was every bit as emphatic as it sounds. Watty Graham’s were in charge from first whistle until last, but whereas 12 months ago Glen were celebrating history, this felt like an important step on a road that they will hope will lead to an Ulster title.

Cathal Mulholland led the way for Glen with 1-1 while Michael Warnock 0-2, Conleth McGucKian 0-2, Jack Doherty 0-2, Ethan Doherty 0-2, Eunan Mulholland, Conor Glass and Emmet Bradley were all on target for the Derry champions.

Glen were drawn against Errigal Ciaran in the first round of their Ulster campaign and were forced to dig deep against the Tyrone champions before shading a tight contest.

The Tyrone men were the better side in the opening half and went into half-time leading by four before Glen stormed back to outscore them by 2-09 to 0-4 in a second half that was always in the melting pot.

Ethan Doherty, who was superb throughout, grabbed the game’s crucial score. His 36th minute goal tied the game at 3-03 to 1-09 and the Maghera men never looked back after that.

The introduction of substitute Stevie O’Hara gave Glen an added boost, the forward helping himself to two superb points as Malachy O’Rourke’s men edged into a four-point lead in the final quarter.

There was late drama as Errigal had the ball in the back of the Glen net when Ruairi Canavan’s shot came back off the Glen crossbar before Eoin Kelly appeared to bundle the ball over the line.

Errigal’s joy was short lived however as the score was ruled out and so it was on to a place in the semi-final where they will face Ronan Devlin’s Cargin in a game where they will be expected to advance.

That certainly won’t worry the Balliderry man or his management colleagues, Kevin Doyle and Fabian Muldoon. Devlin has stepped up to the management role after assisting former manager, Damian Cassidy for a number of successful years and has certainly impressed in his first year in charge.

Kevin Doyle eats and breaths Cargin football after a long and distinguished career and I spoke to him after the Antrim final and asked him about the draw against Glen Maghera. Doyle was in the side who defeated Carrickmore in Cargin’s last first round success back in 1999 and was clearly delighted to put a series of first round Ulster defeats behind him.

“Glen are a really good side and rightly so will start the game as firm favourites. They beat St Eunan’s last year, a team I rate highly and then Scotstown and probably should have beat Kilcoo so we know what we are up against.

We are no strangers to each other and I’m sure come Sunday week we will know everything there is possibly to know about each other. I’d say I’ve been to 6 or 7 of their games in the last couple of years in the Derry championship. I think it’s a matter of getting the match ups right and going from there and executing the game plan we’ll have in place. We are really looking forward to it and it’s another step to where we want to be” said the Cargin man. 

While Glen Maghera have a side riddled with household names with Conor Glass perhaps the best known and the Doherty’s Ethan and Jack, Conleth McGuckian, Emmet Bradley and Cathal Mulholland all likely to feature prominently on Sunday.

Erin’s Own have their own star men and a number who have performed at the top level with both club and county and who will not be overawed by the task facing them in Omagh.

Leading the way will be Michael McCann who has given a lifeline of service to the Toome club and was still performing consistently with Antrim last year and Mick will be relishing Sunday’s challenge and urging his colleagues to greater efforts.

John McNabb in goals, James Laverty, Justin Crozier, Gerard McCann, Kevin O’Boyle, Paul McCann, Kevin McShane John Carron and ace marksman, Tomas McCann have spearheaded the Cargin challenge while county players, Pat Shivers and Jimmy Gribbin are joined by a rich vein of emerging talent that includes, Sean Og O’Neill, Cahir Donnelly and Benen Kelly in the present side.

Erin’s Own have a strong bench to call upon if needed and Ciaran Close epitomised that fact when the 40 something Ciaran Close came off the bench to score a vital goal against Glenties the last day.

The Toome side and their loyal support will travel to Healey Park on Sunday relishing the tag of underdogs and underdogs do win matches and if it comes down to a dogfight going down the home straight then this scribe is certainly not writing of their chances of gaining a win that would be a massive boost to Antrim football.

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