A ‘Close’ call as Cargin make it three in a row

Northern Switchgear

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 captain Michael McCann who won his sixth senior championship medal in Sunday’s win over Creggan.

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)

Cathal McOscar Photography

Close goal seals 3-in a row for Cargin

A summary of today’s SFC Final T Kelly Park, Portglenone. Afull report and photographs will appear on the site later tonight

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Final 

Cargin 1-22-1-19 Creggan (AET)

Kevin Herron reports from Kelly Park 

A goal from Kieran Close three minutes into the second period of extra-time sealed a 3rd successive Championship triumph for Cargin after they saw off neighbours Creggan 1-22-1-19 at Kelly Park this afternoon. 

The champions made a rip-roaring start and established a 0-04 lead inside of seven minutes. 

All coming courtesy of Tomas McCann, the lively full-forward hit the opener inside of 20 seconds from Pat Shivers pass, converted two frees and added an advanced mark. 

Ruairi McCann missed two early frees but was successful in getting his side off the mark at the third time of asking. 

Jamie and Conor McCann landed further scores and Conor Small levelled the scores on 16 minutes. 

Momentum was with the Staffordstown Road outfit as Tiernan McAteer hit back to back scores to edge his side ahead for the first time and a further score from Conor McCann was his side’s seventh on the trot to open up a 0-07-0-04 lead. 

Pat Shivers and Ruairi McCann traded points before Cargin levelled with three successive points through Ciaran Bradley and curling scores from Pat Shivers and Paul McCann. 

Kevin Rice and Shivers were on target before the break and in injury-time Ciaran Bradley was denied by a terrific Oisin Kerr save with the follow-up blasted wide as the sides were level 0-09 apiece.

 Creggan regained the lead early in the second half through substitute Fintan Burke but Cargin hit the front for the first time since the 7th minute through points from Mick McCann and Brendan Lavery. 

Ruairi McCann levelled with a fine point from play and then converted his second free of the game to give his side a 0-12-0-11 lead. 

The pendulum swung back in Cargin’s direction with successive Ciaran Bradley points although Ruairi McCann converted a straight forward free to level once more. 

Creggan opened up a two point advantage through a converted Jamie McCann free and McCann would land a second on the bounce after weaving away from Pat Shivers. 

Cargin spurned a second goal chance as Kerr denied Tomas McCann but Shivers floated over a point from the follow-up. 

Tomas McCann then drew the sides level with a free and 60-seconds later converted another to give the Champions a 0-16-0-15 lead in injury-time. 

There was to be late drama though as Creggan were afforded the opportunity pull level and Ruairi McCann dually took the chance as extra-time was required for the second year running. 


Cargin drew first blood in injury-time through another McCann free but Ruairi McCann landed the equaliser and substitute Paddy Coey edged his side ahead. 

They were dealt a blow however as Eunan McAteer was black carded for a trip and Jamie Gribbin landed an equaliser. 

But at the midway point it was 14-man Creggan who had their noses in front as David McGuckin popped over a late point to make it 0-19-0-18. 

The turning point in the game arrived three minutes into the second period as Jamie Gribbin picked out Kieran Close who shot low into the corner of the net. 

Close could have profited from a poor kick-out moments later but ended up grabbing a point and Kevin O’Boyle looked to have added the insurance point. 

But Creggan threw themselves a lifeline when Aidan McKeown shot through a crowded goalmouth to the net to put the game in the melting pot again at 1-21-1-19. 

O’Boyle would have the final say though and grabbed the games final score as Cargin held-on to win 1-22-1-19 at the end of an absorbing encounter. 

Can Creggan put 66 year wait behind them?

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC Final preview

Erin’s Own Cargin (Holders) v Kickham’s Creggan

By Paddy McIlwaine

The meeting of Erin’s Own Cargin and Kickham’s Creggan in this Sunday’s Senior Football championship final brings together two side with vastly contrasting records in this competition. The rivalry between these neighbouring clubs is as keen as it is anywhere in the county or indeed in Ireland but their fortunes in recent years couldn’t be much different.

Erin’s Own Cargin are the reigning county champions and are going for three titles in a row while we have to go back to 1954 to find the last time that their parish neighbours lifted the Senior Football championship title.

Creggan’s Conor McCann and Cargin’s Michael McCann in action during the 2018 final

That was the last time the cup resided on the Staffordstown Road with their only other title coming back in 1943 so 66 years without success is a long time for a proud club who have been performing well in division 1 of the Antrim leagues and have knocked at the championship door for quite a while but as yet have failed to gain access.

Two years ago Creggan did reach the final and a meeting with Sunday’s opponents and many felt that the long wait for success was over but in a cagey, low scoring final it was Erin’s Own who emerged winners 0-5 to 0-4.

That was in 2018 and Cargin followed that success up with a win over Lamh Dhearg, after a replay in last year’s final and are aiming for a first ever three in a row for the club at Kelly Park on Sunday. The Toome side will start as firm favourites and have been the team to beat in recent years.

Cargin’s first championship success came back in 1974 but it was a further 21 years before they collected their second title in 1995 and their third four years later in 1999. They followed that success up with another win in 2000 but were not awarded that title until 2005 following an unseemly brawl at the end of that game against St. Paul’s.

2000 might have heralded a period of success for the Toome side but the fallout from that suspension coupled with the emergence of St. Gall’s as the dominant force in Antrim meant it would be another six years before Cargin would lift the Padraig McNamee Cup again.

Their win in 2006 interrupted a period of dominance for the Milltown side which lasted from 2001 to 2014 with St. Gall’s the team that the Toome side beat in that 2006 final. Cargin brought that winning run to an end again when they defeated Lamh Dhearg in the 2015 final and were winners again in 2016 when they beat St. Gall’s during a very successful period under the management of John Brennan.

Brennan was still at the helm when Cargin lost to St. John’s in the 2017 semi-final and defeat heralded his departure with former Derry All Ireland winner, Damian Cassidy taking over managerial duties for the 2018 campaign.

Cassidy led his side to success in 2018 and again in 2019 and this year will be hoping to guide them to an unprecedented three in a row but Creggan will be determined to put paid to that notion and will be quietly confident that they can do just that.

A look at the respective records of both sides would suggest that they go into Sunday’s final as rank outsiders however. Their championship success in 1943 and again in 1954 makes bleak reading compared to the record of Sunday’s opponents but records are made to be broken.

Former Antrim player, Kevin Madden held the managerial reigns at Creggan in a period that saw them lose that 2018 final but his side recorded an O’Cahan Cup victory over Cargin and won a league title in the same year.

Madden has moved on to become part of Micky Harte’s backroom team in Tyrone with his assistant Gerard McNulty taking over the managerial reigns at Creggan so there has been continuity at the club and that has been important.

The St. Enda’s man has tweaked the side but by in large has stuck to a well-tested formula and they have been impressive this year. Creggan finished top of a Group 1 that included south west rivals, Portglenone and Ahoghill. They defeated Portglenone at Sunday’s venue before losing to the same opponents on the Staffordstown Road but a big win in their final game away to Ahoghill ensured that they finished as group winners.

McNulty found himself in the unenviable position of planning a win over his own club, St. Enda’s in the quarter-final at Dunsilly but went about his task in his own professional manner with Creggan emerging fairly convincing winners over the former All Ireland Intermediate championship finalists.

That win set up a third meeting of the season with Casement’s Portglenone in the semi-final, the only team to have beaten them this year and they looked in trouble with the Bannsider’s holding a slender lead midway through the second half.

Good fortune favoured them however when Ruairi McCann’s free from 30 yards out dipped to the corner of the net and before the Casement’s could regroup, Conor Small raced through for a second goal with virtually his first touch of the ball and that was that.

Cargin finished their Group 3 campaign unbeaten and with maximum points. In a group that included St. Mary’s Aghagallon, St. Brigid’s and St. James’ Aldergrove they were seldom pushed though Aghagallon and St. Brigid’s both led for a period in Toome but were caught by a very efficient Cargin side.

O’Donovan Rossa were their opponents in the quarter-final in Ahoghill but the Jerimiah’s failed to test the reigning champions who ran out convincing winners to set up a semi-final meeting with old adversaries, Lamh Dhearg at Hightown.

Meetings between these two sides have been keenly contested affairs in recent years with Cargin needing a replay to beat the Hannastown side in the 2019 final and this one was little different. Lamh Dhearg set the early pace with Paddy Cunningham in fine form but a goal from the penalty spot from Tomas McCann settled the reigning champions.

They still trailed at half time but a strong second half performance and goals from youngsters, Ronan Gribbin and Pat Shivers saw them emerge 3-9 1-13 winners in a bad tempered second half that saw three players sent off.

Last year Pat Shivers was the star of the show in Cargin’s minor final win over Naomh Brid. This season he is an established member of the senior team.


Neither side are likely to show too many changes from the sides that lined out in their respective semi-finals. John McNabb started in goals against Lamh Dhearg and has been their regular number 1 for quite a number of years while Justin Crozier is a solid and reliable full-back with a flair for attacking if the opportunity arises.

Against Lamh Dhearg he was flanked by experienced pair, Kevin O’Boyle and Marty Kane to form a very experienced full-back line, all three former county players. Damian Cassidy has introduced a number of youngsters to his side this year with Ronan Gribbin staking a strong claim for a place in Sunday’s final with a goal against Lamh Dhearg from right-half-back while James Laverty and David Johnston could complete the half-back line.

Kevin McShane is a strong and combative mid-fielder where he was partnered recently by Michael McCann who remains the man who pulls the strings for Cargin. McCann has been like a good whiskey, he gets better with age.

Again in attack, Cargin have relied on some of their young emerging stars for scores though Jimmy Gribbin, Ciaran Bradley and Pat Shivers have been around for a few years but they have all been impressive this year with Shivers outstanding against the Hannastown side in the semi-final.

The tall rangy 19 year old scored 1-4 at Hightown and that marks him out as a player to watch while Tomas McCann can be a real handful for any defence on his day. Paul McCann and John Carron completed a very efficient attack while Michael Magill, Sean O’Neill, Enda McGroggan and Gerard McCann will all be hoping to get the nod for a starting place.


Like Cargin, Creggan have a good mix of youth and experience and I wouldn’t expect their side to show too many changes from the one that performed so well against St. Enda’s and Portglenone. Oisin Kerr has held the goalkeeping jersey for quite a while and has been a reliable number 1 while in front of him Ricky Johnston is likely to be flanked by Aidan Maguire and Eunan McAteer.

Marty Johnston brings a lot of experience at centre half while Jamie McCann came into the side as a substitute against St. Enda’s and retained his place against Portglenone in the semi-final. McCann is strong and combative and could complete a strong half-back line with Sam Maguire on the other flank.

At mid-field Conor McCann and Kevin Rice are a formidable combination while Ruairi McCann has been in excellent form in attack this year and his free taking could be vital while Kevin Small, Fintan Burke, Tiernan McAteer and Paddy Coey are all in the mix for a starting spot in attack.

Conor Og McCann captains the side and is likely to continue in the role of sweeper while manager McNulty could have an ace in his pack with Conor Small coming on in the last two games as a substitute as he makes full recovery from injury and scoring important goals in both games.

Cathal McOscar Photography


Erin’s Own Cargin will start Sunday’s final as strong favourites and rightly so but the role of underdogs will suit the Kickham’s and they are unlikely to be overawed by their opponents reputation.

There are likely to be individual battles all over the field and the mid-field duel between Michael McCann and Kevin McShane for Cargin and Conor McCann and Kevin Rice for Creggan could be an important factor in the outcome of the game.

As always scores will be important and hopefully both sides will come out and have a go and we will not be treated to the ultra-defensive final that we witnessed two years ago. Both sides have players capable of getting vital scores on the big occasion with Tomas McCann and Pat Shivers for Cargin and Ruairi McCann and Conor Small for Creggan potential match winners.

As I’ve already said Cargin will start as strong favourites and should edge Sunday’s final but local derby’s can be hard to call and if the KIckham’s can ride the early storm and hang in there then they might not be too far away at the end and the 66 year wait could be over.

McCann magic settled the 2018 decider

Antrim Senior Football Championship final preview

Two years ago Sunday’s finalists met in the 2018 final in Ahogill. A high scoring thriller it was not, but because of the closeness of the scoring it was always compelling. We take a look back at the game through Brendan McTaggart’s match report

Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill

Erin’s Own Cargin 0-5 Kickham’s Creggan 0-4

It may not have been the classic contest we had hoped for and for the neutrals in attendance at Fr. McGuigan Park, it won’t last long in the memory. Will that matter to the men from Erin’s Own Cargin? You might get an answer by Tuesday once their done celebrating their eighth Antrim title and third in four years.

Nine scores in 60 plus minutes of football, admittedly is a poor return. For those purists who follow the game and those who made the journey up the Crosskeys Road to the picturesque setting in Cloney, they will all be practising their best Pat Spillane impressions. “Puke Football.”

But this was different. This was a rivalry between two teams who yes, are neighbours but they share the same Parish. The rivalry runs deep, deeper than possibly anything else in the county. Creggan have been in Cargin’s shadow for longer than they care to remember when it comes to football and Sunday was their chance to knock ‘big brother’ off his perch.

The atmosphere before throw in was electric. The patrons were treated to a feast beforehand, Dunloy and St Galls minors putting on an excellent final. A flowing 60 minutes that whetted the appetite. The crowd was already large, by the time the full time whistle blew, it was huge. They were expectant for more of the same but it was never going to be a classic. The tension and magnitude of the contest between these great rivals wouldn’t allow for free-flowing football.

To call the opening quarter cat and mouse would be a huge understatement, neither side showing their full hand while sizing each other up. A reluctance to go for the ‘Hollywood’ ball that would open the final up.

Michael Magill opened the scoring after just over a minute but his tussle with Ricky Johnston was one of the highlights of the game. Cargin tried to pick the target man out on a few occasions but it was a titanic tussle between the two adversaries.

An early goal chance for the Kickham’s was squandered when Matthew Rodgers shot was floated straight to the waiting arms of John McNabb in the Cargin goals. Creggan managed their first score of the final when Kevin Small split the posts in the 11th minute and when the Creggan forward judged the elements to perfection soon after to give the Kickhams the lead, it looked like the Staffrordstown Road side had finally settled into their first final in 41 years.

The Cargin reply was instant. Ciaran Bradley finishing a rare counter attack by the Erin’s Own side in the 20th minute as the wrestle for momentum and authority continued. Big hits, turnovers, packed defences but a hugely intense last 10 minutes followed. Neither side giving an inch and neither looking to change from what they hoped would be a winning formula.

The second half arrived and it was more of the same warfare. The elements had eased but what wind there was blew in the Kickham’s favour. Both teams were guilty of missed opportunities, Creggan more so. Cargin opened a two point lead for the first time in the match when Tomás McCann, he off semi-final last gasp goal fame, landed his first of the match and Bradley doubling his own tally. The pressure was heaped on Creggan but their response was every inch as impressive as you would expect. Marty Johnston finishing a counter by fisting over the bar before Conor McCann repeated the same moments later.

Heading into the final quarter and we were no nearer to finding out where the Pádraig McNamee Cup would reside for the year.

52 minutes and 23 seconds. That’s the time when Michael McCann etched his name into Cargin folklore. This time the score came that settled the first all south-west senior county final. The score that meant Cargin had the bragging rights. At least, that is, until they meet again, and they will. I have no doubt in my mind that this isn’t the last time these two will contest the final again. Creggan came close to fulfilling a dream and realising their potential.

Captain McCann put in an inspired performance for the hour. As his manager described him: ‘A Rolls Royce.’ When I spoke with him during the madness of the celebrations, he was equally as complementary about his gaffer:

“With that man, anything is possible. He gets every inch out of you. He’s meticulous. Nothing you see out there is left to chance to be honest. What you see out there is what we’ve been practising. Ball retention, coming off the shoulder, kick-outs and that. You might think it looks a wee bit hashy but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That man has everything planned to a tee. Damian could have told you that score before the match started, that’s how good he is.

“We were completely written off and I think that’s what that man wanted too. We had a poor league but we were struggling panel wise with players out. We had some serious injuries, boys out for two and three months at a time and it’s only been the last eight or ten weeks that we’ve had everybody back. Even at that, we were missing three or four main men for the first round and the semi.”

McCann gave us an insight into playing their great rivals when he continued: “Total relief to get over the line.

“You know something and to be fair to both teams, there was a lot of pressure on us and that’s natural. Both teams sort of played within themselves, neither looking to come out and show too much. Keep things tight but that comes from respect.

“It was a heavy hitting game but it wasn’t a dirty game. There wasn’t boys wrestling and hitting off the ball but it was physical. It took a lot out of the legs but I think there’s a mutual respect. We respect them obviously, they’re a very good side but a lot of people wrote us off and we showed experience is everything.”

With the winning score coming relatively early in the game, McCann didn’t realise it was his point that ended up being the match winner: “I didn’t even remember that. It didn’t enter my head being honest. It sort of opened up for me. I cut inside and it went over the black spot. I missed one in the first half with my left but thankfully that one went over. It was very surreal out there. You don’t really remember those things at the time.” The Cargin Captain continued: “We have three or four young boys playing out there who’re in their teens, Jamie Gribben and Ciaran Bradley to name but a couple. We have boys out there who are well fit to be playing at this level and you saw the sort of talent they have.

“Closey (Kieron Close) and the likes coming off the bench gives you a lift. The work he put it, you know you might not realise the work the forwards put it. People will look at the score line and think ‘the forwards didn’t put in a shift’ but they put in as big a shift as anyone.”

Cargin can now look forward to a potential run in the Ulster championship and a date with Gaoth Dobhair of Donegal in the opening round, McCann told us: “We’re in bonus territory now but with Damian, he’ll do the homework on whoever we’re playing and hopefully we can get a run.”

Cargin keep 3-in a row hopes alive

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship Semi-final

Lámh Dhearg 1-13-3-09 Cargin

Kevin Herron reports from Hightown

Second-half goals from Ronan Gribbin and Pat Shivers ensured that Cargin put behind them an indifferent opening-half as the county champions survived a frenzied finish to book a place in the decider for the third successive season after a 3-09-1-13 win over Lámh Dhearg at Hightown this afternoon.

Lámh Dhearg were the dominant team in the opening half and bounced back from the concession of an early penalty- converted by Tomas McCann to lead 0-06-1-02 at the break.

But Cargin moved back in front through Gribbin and a third goal from Pat Shivers gave them breathing space.

A sweet strike from Paddy Cunningham ensured it was game-on again but tempers frayed as the clock ticked down with Cargin duo Michael McCann and Martin Kane being dismissed along with Lámh Dhearg captain Michael Herron.

The Toome men used their experience to see out time and will face near neighbours Creggan in a repeat of the 2018 final.

Lámh Dhearg were hit with a double blow pre-match as they lost influential duo Marc Jordan [illness] and Eoin McKeown- who recently signed for Ballymena United and was forced to end his involvement.

The Hannahstown men got off the mark early through a Paddy Cunningham free but on 4 minutes conceded a penalty.

Paul McCann curled a shot which came off the large post with Tomas McCann taking a tumble under pressure from Declan Lynch and referee Colm McDonald signalled for a penalty.

McCann himself seized responsibility and sent John Finucane the wrong way to give his side the early advantage.

Paddy Cunningham responded with a free and played a role in levelling the game up, floating a high ball in on top and Terry McCrudden smashed it over from close range.

Lámh Dhearg edged ahead for the third time with Cunningham converting his third free and Ben Rice steered over a further point after good attacking play from Kevin Quinn to make it 0-05-1-00.

Tomas McCann closed the deficit after claiming an advanced mark and converting- though Cunningham added his fourth free of the half after Ryan Murray was obstructed on rout to goal.

Jamie Gribbin got on the end of a Tomas McCann through ball to narrow the gap to the bare minimum once again.

Just before the interval the Lámhs were reduced to 14-men for a ten-minute spell after Paddy Cunningham was shown a black-card for a trip on Tomas McCann.

Cargin were unable to take advantage in the remaining minutes of the first-half though and trailed 0-06-1-02 at the interval.

With an extra-man advantage for the first two and a half minutes Cargin finally made their numerical advantage work.

Three minutes after the restart Martin Kane slipped the ball inside to Ronan Gribbin and despite John Finucane attempting to panic the defender; Gribbin kept his composure and stabbed the ball home to give his side a 2-02-0-06 lead.

Terry McCrudden responded after converting an advanced mark with Kevin McShane landing a point in return.

Paddy Cunningham kicked his fifth free of the contest after returning to proceedings and a third point from Terry McCrudden levelled proceedings for the second time after a super pass from substitute Deaglan Smyth.

Cargin got their noses back in front through a fine Tomas McCann score and further scores followed through John Carron and a double from Pat Shivers- one from a free and the other from play.

Just after the second-half water break Cargin sliced through the Lámh Dhearg defence with great success.

Paul McCann played a one-two with brother Tomas and then picked out Jamie Gribbin in space, Gribbin took the return pass and offloaded to Pat Shivers who rocketed a shot into the roof of the net to ensure Cargin had one foot in the final with a 3-07-0-09 lead.

Lámh Dhearg were in need of an instant response but picked off three quick scores in succession two through ace marksman Cunningham- one coming from a free and the other an angled point from play after an intelligent Ryan Straney pass with Conor Murray firing over a quick free in-between times.  

Pat Shivers replied with a free but on 54 minutes it was game on again at Hightown. Michael Herron floated a long ball in which was helped on by Conor Murray, Brendan Herron was able to get a hand to it and direct into the path of Paddy Cunningham who feined a shot and then picked his spot in the corner of the net to narrow the gap to just two-points (1-12-3-08).

Any momentum the Hannahstown side may have gained was interrupted as trouble brewed between both sets of players and consultation was needed between the officials.

After taking advice from umpires and linesman the end result was red-cards for both team captains Michael Herron and Michael McCann. Martin Kane was then dismissed as the game would conclude with 13 against 14.

Paddy Cunningham kicked his eighth free of the afternoon to put just a point between the sides and set-up a grandstand finish.

However his side were unable to snatch a dramatic leveller from John Finucane off target on a venture up-field.

Instead Pat Shivers would land Cargin’s insurance point with a late, late free to ensure that the county Champions would prevail after a dramatic afternoon in Hightown.

The final in two-week’s time will be a repeat of the 2018 decider between Cargin and Creggan with high hopes that a more high scoring encounter lies in store.

Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, M McGarry, D Lynch, P Mervyn, K Quinn, M Herron, B Rice (0-01), P Fitzsimons, R Straney, D Dunne, C Murray (0-01), R Murray, P Cunningham (1-08, 0-07f), B Herron, T McCrudden (0-03, 0-02f). Subs: D Smyth for B Rice (HT), A McAufield for M McGarry (49), F Dugan for T McCrudden (60+3).

Cargin: J McNabb, K O’Boyle, J Crozier, M Kane, D Johnston, J Laverty, R Gribbin (1-00), K McShane (0-01), M McCann, C Bradley, P Shivers (1-04, 0-03f), J Carron (0-01), J Gribbin (0-01), T McCann (1-02, 1-01f), P McCann. Subs: S O’Neill for D Johnston (40), G McCann for K McShane (48).

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

Stephen Thornton of Thornton Roofing presents a cheque to Paddy McIlwaine from the Saffron Gael prior to yersterday’s SFC semi-final between Cargin and Lamh Dhearg at Hightown. The Saffron Gael thank Stephen and Thornton Roofing for their continued sponsorship of the site.