Much improved Antrim end on a high note

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section B

Antrim 1-14-0-09 St. Mary’s

By Kevin Herron at Woodlands

Antrim claimed their first Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup victory with a win over St. Mary’s at Woodlands this evening in Section B’s basement battle.

The Saffrons dominated the opening 35 minutes and went into the break 1-10-0-03 to the good thanks to a late Ryan Murray goal in the dying embers of the opening half.

St. Mary’s out scored Antrim 0-06-0-04 in the second period with substitute Shane McGuigan helping himself to 0-03 after his introduction from the bench but it wasn’t enough to deny Antrim victory in their last competitive warm-up game before the National League starts in earnest with a clash against neighbours Derry in two weeks time.

Antrim began the game on the front foot with Ryan Murray opening the scoring with a point inside the first two minutes.

Wing half back Niall Delargy fisted over a second and further scores from Kevin Quinn and Patrick McBride (free) had the Saffrons 0-04-0-00 ahead by the tenth minute.

A delightful point from Martin Johnston and a confidently converted Patrick McBride free increased the hosts lead before Stephen McConville replied for the Ranch from the placed ball.

St. Mary’s second score arrived through Niall Toner – the full forward made space before successfully finding range. Though Colm Duffin replied almost instantly at the other end and with five minutes of the half remaining Ryan Murray converted a free after he was tripped as Antrim were 0-08-0-02 to the good.

Martin Johnston doubled his account for the evening as did Murray from the play- the corner-forward popped over after a neat interchange with Patrick McBride and a minute before the end of regulation time in the first-half, the opening goal arrived.

Patrick McBride burst into the area and played the ball into the back post where Murray was waiting to scramble the ball past St. Mary’s keeper Mark Reid to give his side a comfortable 1-10-0-02 lead.

Ryan McSherry hit back for the Ranch before the break – but at the midway point it was the students who had a lot of catching up to do, trailing 1-10-0-03.

Stephen McConville converted an early second half free to open St. Mary’s second-half account and Ricky Johnston replied for the Saffrons at the other end.

The sides exchanged further points through Mary’s substitute Shane McGuigan (free) and McBride.

Owen McKeown then shot over to give Antrim a 1-13-0-05 lead after 52 minutes – it would be the Saffrons penultimate score in the game as St. Mary’s began to the turn the screw.

Back to back scores from Gerard O’Neill and Paul Gunning reduced the deficit to single figures, only for McBride to add his fourth point of the evening in response 13 minutes after his sides last score.

St. Mary’s substitute Shane McGuigan would add a further two scores to his evening tally; one from the play and the other from a free.

In the end it was Antrim who came out on top in the basement battle in Section B and Lenny Harbinson’s men will take the positives ahead of the league opener with Derry two weeks on Sunday.

Antrim: P Nugent, E McCabe, R Johnston (0-01), P Gallagher, N Delargy (0-01), M McCarry, D Lynch, M Sweeney, F Burke, K Quinn (0-01), C Duffin (0-01), P McBride (0-04,0-02f), O McKeown (0-01), M Johnston (0-02), R Murray (1-03,0-01f). Subs: P McCormick for K Quinn (18 mins), P Finnegan for R Murray (36 mins), E Walsh for M Johnston (39 mins), D McCormick for R Johnston (56 mins), C Lemon for C Duffin (62 mins).

St. Mary’s: M Reid, R McCusker, P McSorley, M Rooney, C Byrne, C McKinney, K Muldoon, S McConville (0-02f), J Hannigan, C Stinton, R Coleman, T O’Kane, D McKinless, N Toner (0-01), R McSherry (0-01). Subs: S McGuigan (0-03,0-02f) for C Stinton (44 mins), G O’Neill (0-01) for T O’Kane (47 mins), P Gunning (0-01) for D McKinless (50 mins), C White for K Muldoon (58 mins), H McNamee for S McConville (63 mins).

Referee: Dan Mullan (Doire)

Cargin defeat Creggan to collect third title in four years

The Football Championship 2018 Revisited

With 2018 almost over and the talk of pre-season activity amongst  more than a few clubs it is time to revisit the football championships and look back at the winners and the path they travelled on their journey to success.

We start with the Antrim Senior football championship and the path to the final taken by eventual winners Cargin as they defeated neighbours Creggan in a first ever all South West final.

The senior championship takes center stage and it is the ultimate dream for participating clubs at the start of each season.

Lamh Dhearg were the custodians of the Padraig McNamee cup at the outset, but the Hannahstown men were not to start as favourites despite that famous win over the Johnnies in a dramatic 2017 decider.

Indeed it was Erin’s Own Cargin who took on the dubious mantle of favourite, the kiss of death for many but the 2016 champions were to prove the bookies right on this occasion.

The Toome men had installed Damien Cassidy as manager at the start of the season and it was probably the arrival of the Bellaghy man to the Cargin hot seat which had prompted such favour.

The draw as it happened ensured that a first ever all country decider between Erin’s Own Cargin and Kickham’s, Creggan looked a distinct possibility.

In the event such prediction was to prove right on the mark and the history making event took place before a huge attendance at Clooney in the 2018 Antrim senior football championship final in the culmination of the competition which had started six weeks previously, on May 21st.

With twelve sides included in the draw to include second division placed St Brigid’s and the seeding system which ensured the top four finishers from the 2016 division one were to occupy quarter final places four preliminary round games necessitated.

The opening game of the preliminaries saw St Mary’s Ahoghill line out against St Brigid’s in Ballymena on September 8th with the eventual winners drawn against Kickham’s Creggan.

In the event the Clooney men having started as favourites prevailed on a 2-10 to 1-12 winning scoreline but the South Belfast men finished strongly and ensured their country cousins had to work for their passage.

Later on in the afternoon in what was another country versus city affair St Teresa’s were to prove too strong for the challenge offered by St Joseph’s Glenavy with the West Belfast men ensuring a place in the quarter finals and a next round assignment against St John’s crossing the finish line with a 3-12 to 1-07 win at Sarsfields.

Attention switched to the Creggan and Glenavy venues on the next day as Casement’s faced the challenge of Rossa at the Staffordstown road venue early in the afternoon, 1.30pm, with the reigning champions Lamh Dhearg, set to cross swords with Aghagallon up at the Chapel Hill at 5.30.

In the opening game Jude Donnelly’s charges claimed passage to ensure a quarter final date with St Gall’s, crossing the finish line with a five point advantage over the Shaw’s road side following a keenly contested, entertaining game on a  finishing score of 3-13 to 3-08.

The second game on the Sunday programme saw a good crowd assemble at Glenavy and although Lamh Dhearg were to field without a few regulars including Declan Lynch and Conor Murray the Hannahstown men sounded warning that they were on course for a retention of the title with a good twelve point win at 2-15 to 0-09 to set up a quarter final meeting with Cargin.

Mairtin Lynch’s men had not been seen at their best in the league but championship seemed to relight the fire within.

The week-end 21st/23rd September was assigned for the quarter finals and first up was the all South West affair as Kickham’s Creggan were to take on St Mary’s Ahoghill in an evening game at Quinn Park, the home of All Saint’s Ballymena.

Creggan started this one as firm favourites and although Kevin Madden’s men had to dig deep to get the better of the Clooney men when they met in the championship last term they top of the league at this stage having already secured both the O’ Cahan cup and the Reserve championship.

Madden’s men were never troubled as they recorded a comprehensive win over the Clooney side running out 4-13 to 0-08 winners and a semi-final berth secured.

The second quarter-final saw former champions St Gall’s drawn against Casement’s on Saturday afternoon with Corrigan Park the chosen venue.

Casement’s having already lowered the Milltown Row sides colours in league fare were expected to give Sean Kelly’s side a game but in the event the rejuvenated St Gall’s were having none of it.

Going well in the league from the outset the Lower Falls residents underlined current wellbeing and signalled intent on a return to the podium again when they crossed the line with an eye catching 3-11 to 1-08 winning advantage.

The third quarter final saw the action moved to Creggan as the defending champions looked to make progress in defence of the title when they faced the challenge of Cargin.

Paddy Cunningham scores a Lamh Dhearg goal during their drawn semi-final with Cargin

Damien Cassidy’s men had failed to impress in the league fare and they seemed on their way out of championship when the Paddy Cunningham led Lamh Dhearg came from well off the pace to earn a two point lead with time almost up.

The Toome men finished strongly however and a couple of late Tomas McCann points earned a second chance and a replay at Corrigan Park on the following Sunday.

In the event Cassidy’s men grasped the second chance firmly with both hands and despite being reduced to 14 with Michael McCann picking up a second ‘yellow’ early in play they dominated proceedings to cross the line and into the semis and another championship meeting with St Gall’s on a winning scoreline of 0-11 to 0-05.

The third quarter final tie involved city rivals as St John’s lined out against the St Teresa’s at Sarsfield’s. St Teresa’s had caused upset a few years earlier when they ousted the Johnnies in a first round shock but there was to be no repeat performance in this one as the Whiterock road men dominated from the outset and had plenty in hand, easing into the semi-final on a 3-14 to 0-09 winning scoreline.

The opening semi-final was the subject of last minute change as the original venue, Corrigan Park was moved to Creggan and a huge crowd assembled on the Staffordstown road as old rivals Cargin and St Gall’s lined out.

They travelled from far and wide in anticipation and as events were to unfold nobody was to leave disappointed as they were about to witness a superb game of end to end activity.

St Gall’s dominated in the early stages and indeed Sean Kelly’s side seemed on their way to another Antrim final when they held a six point advantage well into the last quarter.

Cargin were far from finished however and when Jamie Gribbin found the net late in the day to see the Toome men level they looked in business.

St Gall’s were quick to return fire however and late points from Michael Pollock and Eoghan Mc Cabe seemed to have ensured victory but there was to be a sting in the tail.

Tomas McCann celebrates after scoring the goal of the year in the game of the year as Cargin and St Gall’s served up a game for the ages.

With a place in the final looking unlikely Tomas Mc Cann fired a ‘last kick’ free over a crowded goal line to the back of the net and Cargin had claimed a dramatic win and a place in the final.

Creggan and the 2017 beaten finalists St John’s contested the second semi-final at Glenavy on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon. Kevin Madden’s men with the wind at their backs dominated the opening period and a couple of early goals from Sam Maguire and Conor Small put them in a strong position.

St. Johns rallied in the second half but despite the efforts of the Matthew Fitzpatrick there was to be no way back for the Corrigan side.

Creggan concluded with a 2-09 to 1-10 advantage to set up a first ever meeting of South West sides against Erin’s Own Cargin and a replay of the O’Cahan Cup final which Creggan had won earlier in the year.

The event was scheduled for Sunday 21st October in Ahoghill and when the day arrived a huge crowd, gathered from far and near, and even attracted a week-end visitor from Australia.

In the event those who had travelled in anticipation of a ‘classic’ were to be disappointed as the fear of losing seemed to inhibit both sides in a low scoring final. A late Michael McCann point, exquisite in delivery from a young man of whom his manager, Damien Cassidy has named as his Rolls Royce ensuring a 0-05 to 0-04 win for Cargin.

Not the greatest of finals but you would be hard pressed to find agreement within the ranks of the Erin’s Own supporters as they celebrated a third senior title in the past four years and their eighth in total which ensure 4th place in the pecking order behind St John’s, St Gall’s, and O’ Donovan Rossa.

Feeling of regret rather than heart: Cassidy

By Kevin Herron 

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy dismissed any suggestion that he could have taken heart from his sides second-half fight back against Gweedore as the Antrim champions exited the AIB Ulster Senior Football Championship after a 3-11-1-13 defeat by the Donegal natives. 

Instead Cassidy’s feeling was of regret that his charges failed to put in a constant display and waited until they were ten points adrift before battling back into contention. 

“I don’t know how I would describe it as taking heart – certainly from a point of view of the team going out and representing themselves and showing what they can do” reflected Cassidy. 

“The overriding feeling in truth is – why did we not perform like that in the first half? I can’t answer that question. I just did not see it coming – it was like two different teams, it was like we walked in with one team and walked out with a different set of fifteen players in the second-half. It isn’t so much about heart but about regret”. 

Former Derry All-Ireland winner Cassidy was at loss to explain his sides below par first-half showing and admired the overriding feeling at the end was that the Erin Own’s men had gifted Gweedore victory. 

“I can’t explain the first-half” said Cassidy. 

“All the things that we were supposed to do we weren’t doing and all the stuff we were supposed to do we did in the second-half it’s puzzling. In the second-half we showed what we could have done and if we had have backed two halves together we could have been looking at a different outcome – I feel that we’ve given it away”. 

Cargin’s brave comeback bid comes up just short

thumbnailUlster Club Senior Football Championship (Qtr Final)

Erin’s Own Cargin (Antrim) 1-13 Gaoth Dobhair (Donegal) 3-11

Report by Geordie McGuckin

Photos by John McIlwaine

If obituaries were in the process of being penned on the demise of the Antrim champions Cargin when they trailed their counterparts from Donegal by ten points at half time of Sunday’s Ulster Club quarter-final at Corrigan Park, most of the observers in the sizeable attendance would have been in unanimous agreement.

The Gweedore men had arrived at Corrigan Park with a tall reputation which seemed fully justified at the end of that opening period and were full value for their ten point lead.

Some of the Cargin supporters may well have had plans to cut short their time in West Belfast at this stage, but that decision would have been taken in haste as the Erin’s Own lads had no intention of throwing in the towel as they producing a character laden comeback in the second half, and while it was not enough to effect the outcome of the game it went a long way towards restoring a lot of pride.

12Kevin Cassidy flicks the ball to the Cargin net for Gweedore’s opening goal

The Toome men had remained in close attendance with the Tir Conaill champions for the opening twenty minutes with a couple of points from the impressive Jamie Gribbin and one each from Marty Kane, Gerard McCann and Tomas McCann ensured they were in close contact as the quarter final tie reached the latter stages.

Gribbin had started the season much as the ‘new kid on the block’ has improved as the year progressed and he looks one for the future.

Cian Mulligan and Michael Carroll had the opening points for the men from the West and further whites raised by late call up Eamon McKee, who had replaced county star Odhran MacNiallis, who was unable to start after breaking a finger during the week, leading up to the game.

The Donegal side received another setback when Ciaran Gillespie was stretcherd off when he fell awkwardly after contesting the throw in but they kept their noses in front and when  Eamon Collum and Kevin Cassidy added points they were 0-05 to 0-04 to the good after 20 minutes.

Cargin did miss a couple of openings to increase their tally but as back to back opportunities went without reward as the leather fell short and into the keepers arms.

The Gaoth Dobhair men really raised the ante in the last minutes of the half and after bagging back to back goals, and a couple of points in extended injury time they opened up a ten point advantage and gave appeared to be on course to an easy passage to the next round.

Kevin Cassidy started the scoring for Gweedore with back-to-back points before the industrious Jamie Gribbin got the Antrim champions on the board with a well taken score. However the Donegal men were really in the groove and when Eamon McGee and Cian Mulligan combined to send Kevin Cassidy in to punch to the net and a poor clearance which followed paved the way for Michael Carroll and Daire Boyle to interchange and open passage for Cian Mulligan to add another major within a minute the shell shocked Cargin men were in deep trouble.

Tomas Mc Cann did reply with a Cargin point in added time but Gaoth Dobhair were to have the last say of the half and a 35th minute Michael Carroll point ensured a hefty 2-10 to 0-06 interval advantage.

19Cargin substitute Paul McCann breaths new life into his team’s comeback as he fires the ball to the Gweedore net just moments after coming on.

The size of the winning margin seemed the only thing in question as the second half commenced but it soon became obvious that Damien Cassidy’s side were not about to give up without a fight and after Michael Mc Cann and the unfortunate Jamie Gribbin added early scores, replacement Paul Mc Cann found the net with virtually his first touch to breath new life into the Cargin challenge.

Gribbin was the victim of a heavy challenge and had to be replaced by Paul Mc Cann who was back in harness after a lengthy period spent recovering from a serious foot injury, but he was soon to make his presence felt.

Premier 1Cargin were now looking a different side and after John Mc Nabb stood tall to deny Cian Mulligan with a brilliant point-blank save, Michael Mc Cann and Justin Crozier raised white flags apiece at the other end to leave only a single score separating the sides. Suddenly the self-assured Donegal champions looked anything but and with twelve minutes still to play the game was up for grabs.

The Donegal men had been halted in their tracks, and as the second period progressed it was more than obvious that they had lost that early swagger. They had failed to register a single score in the second half,  and though Seamus Boyle put that to right when he sent over a free from out on the right wing, the game was still up for grabs. With nine minutes of normal time still to play, and a four minutes of injury, there was still time for the Antrim champions to mount a challenge and a 53rd minute James Laverty point from play saw the Antrim champs back within a score.

Cargin were dominating and in search of scores and with the Gweedore men now treading water Gerard Mc Corley’s intervention and clearance sent Cargin on the attack again, and when Paul Mc Cann was upended 30 meters from goal his sibling Tomas sent the resultant award firmly between the posts to cut the gap back to just two.

Cargin were now leading the second half scoring by 1-6 to 0-1 but their gallant come-back was about to falter when John Mc Nabb pulled off a splendid save to deny Cian Mulligan’sgoal-bound shot the leather fell kindly for the incoming Michael Carroll to fist to the net, despite the best efforts of Gerard Mc Corley.

A cruel blow for Cargin who had given everything in an effort to turn around a massive ten point deficit, and though Paul McCann brought the gap back to four with a late point, a relieved Gweedore held on to book a semi-final place against Crossmaglen in two weeks’ time.

In the end they had left themselves just too much to do and they must look back on their first half policy of not contesting the Gweedore kick-outs. When they pushed up man on man in the second period the game changed dramatically and while the Donegal champions won every one of their first half kick-outs, that ratio changed dramatically in the second half.

13Cargin’s James Lavery comes out of defence with the ball during the second half. 2

GAOTH DOBHAIR

Christopher Sweeney, Gary Mc Fadden, Neil Mc Gee, Christopher Mc Fadden, Niall Friel, Ciaran Gillespie, Seamus Boyle (0-01), Daire Boyle, Eamon Mc Gee (0-01),  Cian Mulligan (1-01), Naoishe Boyle, Donal Mc Bride, Eamon Collum (0-03), Kevin Cassidy (1-03), Michael Carroll (1-02)

Subs

Peadar Mc Hugh for Ciaran Gillespie

Seamus Carvill for D Mc Bride

Stephen Ferry for E Collum

Gavin Mc Bride for N Boyle

E Collum for G Mc Bride (black card)1

CARGIN

John Mc Nabb, Donnach Mc Keever, Marty Kane (0-01), Gerard Mc Corley, Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier (0-01), James Laverty (0-01), Gerard Mc Cann (0-01), Michael Mc Cann (0-02), John Carron, Jamie Gribbin (0-03), Ciaran Bradley, Enda Mc Grogan (0-01), Michael Magill, Tomas Mc Cann (0-02)

Subs

Kieran Close for M Magill

Paul Mc Cann (1-01) J Gribbin

Oran Mc Auley for E Mc Grogan

Referee Paul Faloon (An Dun)Creagh copy-banner

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Pics by John McIlwaine

 

 

 

Gaoth Dobhair have answered their critics – Christopher McFadden

By the Donegal Democrat

Christopher McFadden believes that Gaoth Dobhair’s SFC win last Sunday will finally silence their critics.

So many questions were asked of the Magheragallon men over the last 12 years as to why they were unable to once again scale that Dr. Maguire mountain.

33-year-old McFadden is one of the few survivors from Gaoth Dobhair’s last championship win back in 2006. He admits that the last decade or so of failure hasn’t been good enough for a club with Gaoth Dobhair’s pedigree.

He told the Donegal Democrat: “Going back to 2006, I was still just a young fella. I think I was 21. You probably take it for granted. You expect them to come in threes and fours. But nothing followed. But we’re back here now. The parish of Gaoth Dobhair have been waiting for this for so long.

“We know we haven’t been good enough but all that’s changed now after this.”

The influx of a superb group of young and decorated footballers has made a huge difference to what Gaoth Dobhair now bring to the table. Spliced between experienced campaigners like McFadden, Kevin Cassidy and Neil and Eamon McGee; what Mervyn O’Donnell now has at his disposal is a panel that possesses panache, pace and real power.

It’s that potent mixture which completely overwhelmed the rest of the runners in this season’s Donegal club championship race.

“They’ve been a breath of fresh air for the club,” McFadden said on the cluster of cubs that have made such an impressive jump to senior football over the last two seasons. “Some of us older heads; it was only so far we could bring the thing. They’ve made a huge difference. To win anything you need legs. Believe me, the way football has gone you need lads that can motor.

“Going down the stretch there, with 15 minutes to go, back a few years ago we probably would have let that kind of advantage slip. But look at how the young lads drove it all on. There was chance after chance. We did concede a late goal, yes. But did it faze them, not one bit.

“That’s the big difference this season.”

McFadden, or ‘Ginger’ as he is known to his teammates, is now into his 13th season in the senior ranks for Gaoth Dobhair. He is adamant that failure simply wasn’t an option ahead of last weekend’s decider against Naomh Conaill.

He explains: “I came in in 2005. It doesn’t get any easier. No word of a lie. Before we came out onto this pitch we had a good word between ourselves. We had to win today. There really was no other option. If we didn’t win today, then who knows what route we’d have gone down?

“People were asking, ‘do Gaoth Dobhair have it?’ We’d questions to answer. But flip it. Those young lads, none of them have ever lost a final. I think that showed today.”

Given the manner in which they’ve disposed of all comers in 2018 domestically, Gaoth Dobhair’s name is unavoidably up there now that talk has turned to the Ulster club. McFadden doesn’t shy away from the question.

Donegal sides’ record in the competition is poor to say the least. But there is no doubt that Gaoth Dobhair have the personnel to give it a serious rattle.

“We haven’t talked about Ulster once this term,” he said. “How could we? People had us as favourites for the championship but we’d no call to be taken in by that kind of talk. But now, of course we have to look at it.

“We have pace, we have power. We have a good blend of youth and experience. But our young lads are experienced also. That’s a big thing for us. We’ll definitely be looking to give it a good shot. But the celebrations of this has to come first. That’s what we’re looking forward to at this moment.”