Frustration the order of the day for Cargin

AIB Ulster Senior Club Championship Preliminary Round

Cargin 0-12 Derrygonnelly Harps 2-10

Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast

Frustration.  The 10 year frustrating wait for that elusive win in the provincial championship continues for Cargin, Derrygonnelly adding their names to Crossmaglen, Killclogher and Gaoth Dobhair in recent years.

Two soft and avoidable first half goals, missed frees and an under par performance all adds to the frustration for Damian Cassidy and his side.  Outscoring the Fermanagh champions eight points to six, playing into a strong breeze will act as scant consolation and add to the, yes, frustration.

A day that promised so much, ended with more questions than answers.  An hour of football that brought more what if’s than what about’s.  Maybe eight days wasn’t the ideal preparation, maybe. 

After the county final, Mick McCann spoke about needing an extra Budweiser to help with the knock he picked up at the end of the hour.  Even the King of Beers couldn’t help him make the starting 15.  A huge loss to the Erin’s Own men and it showed when he was introduced with 16 minutes of the hour remaining.  A baller who plays with flair, a ball carrier who can evade tackles and be the playmaker.  It was just too much of an ask, even for him at that point.

The Cargin midfield came under huge scrutiny after the first game against Lámh Dhearg and they answered most of those questions and critics in the replay.  On Sunday they couldn’t stamp their authority on the game, the loss of Gerard McCann to a knee injury eight days ago certainly felt as the match progressed.

Kieron Close was a bright light in the first half, leading the fight with three points in the opening 30 minutes – two from play.  Cargin were rocked by the concession of the early goal and while it may have looked soft, the circumstances before the major add to the disappointment.  Cargin ‘keeper John McNabb had been struggling from the first whistle and had been down for treatment.  With the next attack and 40, maybe 45 yards from goal, Conall Jones took aim.  The ball looped into the back of the net with McNabb blinded by the sun and a pair of players jumping in front of him.  The Toome side responded well with Close the focal point of their play.

The second goal was a sucker punch.  Trailing by a point and Close scoring a brace of points in the space of 60 seconds beforehand, it was another counterattack from the Harps.  Down the Cargin left, Stephen McGullion broke past the tackles and shot for goal.  The ball broke to Gavin McGovern who looked like he was inside the small rectangle and McGovern made no mistake.

Derrygonnelly had their tactics on point.  Leaving space for their power runners to make use off and they rucked for possession like packs of hungry wolves.  They hit hard and fair in the tackle and along with pace in their breaks, Cargin were on the backfoot.  The referee came under scrutiny during the first half and added to the Cargin frustrations.  Paul Faloon is renowned for letting the game go but he left some big, big hits unpunished, especially in the first half without calling for a free.  The Fermanagh men packed their defence with 14 men in their own ’45 on numerous occasions and they took full advantage of Faloon’s style of officiating.  The Cargin attack couldn’t get on the front foot and looked laborious in possession with no incision and attacking impetus lacking. 

A six point deficit at half time and Cargin had hardly turned a wheel.  They needed something special in the second half playing against the wind but the Erne County champions kept them at arm’s length.  The threat of Jamie Gribbin all but nullified, Pat Shivers coming off before being introduced as a ‘Plan B’ on the edge of the square late on.  No space for a long ball into Michael Magill on the edge of the square and Tomás McCann was living off scraps.

The Cargin defence were superb in the second half, James Laverty and Justin Crozier running themselves into the ground to join the attack as Derrygonnelly retreated.  The introduction of Kevin McShane helped to get a footing in midfield but by the time Mick McCann was brought on, seven points separated the sides.

The Cargin pressure increased but they were going to need a goal or something inspirational to get over the line.  Neither happened.  The hope, if not expectation was still there.  Cargin were faced with a similar situation in the first match against Lámh Dhearg but the Harps were a different animal.  They had a strong defence, well organised and more defensive than the Hannahstown side were and an attack who were willing to break at pace or keep ball and be patient if the breaks required it.

Cargin’s Kieran Close

Michael Clarke’s 50th minute point was their third in five minutes, all unanswered to leave four points between the sides and maybe the introduction of McCann was timed to perfection.  Cargin pressed, looked for gaps and a yard of space but that was becoming increasingly difficult.  Goal chances were non-existent never mind at a premium. 

Donagh McKeever was sent off for a second yellow card late in the game before McShane scooped over with an instinctive effort in injury time.  Neither had any bearing on the game.  The disappointment was visible for all to see at the final whistle as the Erin’s Own men left the Corrigan Park pitch.  The Golden Egg of a run in Ulster must wait for at least another 12 months for the Erin’s Own men with Derrygonnelly progressing to a meeting with Tyrone champions, Trillick.  Something that Cargin manager Damian Cassidy would have relished with his past in the county.  Frustration.

Cargin undone by first-half goals

AIB Ulster Club Football Championship Preliminary round

Cargin 0-12-2-10 Derrygonnelly Harps

From Kevin Herron at Corrigan Park

Antrim’s recent poor record in the Ulster Club Football Championship continued this afternoon as first half goals from Conall Jones and Gavin McGovern saw Fermanagh Champions Derrygonnelly Harps claim a 2-10-0-12 preliminary round victory over Cargin at Corrigan Park.

Jones was first to reply to Kieran Close’s opening score and although Close closed the gap to the minimum a second goal on the quarter hour mark from Gavin McGovern saw the Fermanagh side move four-points ahead. The sides would continue to nip and tuck throughout the contest but those strikes were enough to see the five-in-a row Fermanagh Champions progress to a quarter-final clash with Tyrone winners Trillick in two weeks’ time.

The introduction of the injured Michael McCann brought Cargin back into contention but they had too much ground to make up after the concession of two first half goals

Although St Galls were the last side to taste a win in the club series back in 2014, there was a degree of hope that Cargin could finally register that elusive win with a clash against Fermanagh kingpins Derrygonnelly.

Cargin were back at the Whiterock Road venue for the third time in three weeks – having successfully defended their Antrim crown with a 3-16-0-23 extra-time victory over Lamh Dhearg eight days ago.

A Kieran Close free edged his side in front inside of two minutes but Derrygonnelly hit the game’s opening goal after seven minutes.

Conall Jones shaped up for a point but the ball dropped in behind the full back line and bounced over John McNabb and into the net to give his side a 1-00-0-01 lead.

The Fermanagh Champions increased their lead as Garvan Jones split the post, but Kieran Close hit back with two top class scores, one with either foot, the second of which was expertly taken off the left to close the deficit to a single point (1-01-0-03).

Cargin’s Pat Shivers in action against Derrygonnelly

Midway through the opening half a second Derrygonnelly goal would thrust them firmly into the driving seat.

Gavin McGovern fired the ball to the net, but credit for the goal must fall to Stephen McGullion who was able to solo almost 40-yards before picking out McGovern with a low shot drilled across the Cargin goalmouth. With their tail firmly up the Fermanagh men added further points through Garvan McGinley and Garvan Jones (free) to take a commanding lead.

Cargin responded before the break through Jamie Gribbin who popped the ball over, though Derrygonnelly would restore their two goal lead at the break as Conall Jones fed goalscorer McGovern who fired it over to give his side a 2-04-0-04 lead at the interval.

Derrygonnelly increased their lead within four minutes of the restart as Garvan Jones converted his second free of the contest, but Kieran Close would reply from the exact same scenario and narrow the margin with his third free of the contest shortly afterwards.

Conall Jones landed his first free of the afternoon and a terrific point from Lee Jones gave the Fermanagh men a 2-07-0-06 lead and Cargin less time to mount a comeback.

Cargin and Derrygonnelly players battle under a high ball

The introduction of Michael McCann gave the Toome men some momentum in the next ten minutes as Tomas McCann landed two straight forward frees and after a patient passing move; Paul McCann swung the ball over the bar to close the gap to four-points (2-07-0-09).

Derrygonnelly put an end to Cargin’s purple patch as substitute Gary McKenna popped the ball into the path of Garvan Jones to claim his fourth point of the afternoon, and though substitute Kevin McShane momentarily closed the gap again, the Jones connection played a part in an instant response as Conall passed the ball to Garvan who slotted the ball between the posts.

Tomas McCann and Neil Gallagher traded points but Cargin were in desperate need of two goals to keep their Championship ambitions alive.

Their cause wasn’t helped by Donagh McKeever picking up a second yellow-card in the aftermath of Gallagher’s point.

A goal almost arrived deep into added time as Paul McCann took a pass from Tomas and hung the ball into the back post were Kevin McShane popped up, but McShane snatched at the opportunity and hooked the ball over the bar instead of under it and Derrygonnelly saw the game out and claimed a 2-10-0-12 victory to progress to the quarter-final of the Ulster series against Trillick in two-weeks time.

Cargin: J McNabb, D McKeever, M Kane, J Laverty, T Scullion, J Crozier, K O’Boyle, P Shivers, K Close (0-05, 0-03f), P McCann (0-01), J Carron, T McCann (0-03f), M Magill, J Gribbin (0-01). Subs: K McShane (0-02) for P Shivers (HT); M Clarke for M Magill (38); M McCann for T Scullion (44); P Shivers for K Close (57). Blood Sub: G McCorley replaces D McKeever (26), D McKeever replaces G McCorley (30).

Derrygonnelly Harps: J Kelly, J Love, T Daly, E McHugh, S McGullion, M Jones, G McGinley (0-01), R Jones, S McGullion, G McGovern (1-01), K Cassidy, D Cassidy, L Jones (0-01), C Jones (1-01), G Jones (0-05, 0-02f). Subs: G McKenna for G McGovern (44); N Gallagher (0-01) for K Cassidy (56); R McHugh for D Cassidy (61).

Referee: Paul Faloon (An Dun).

McCann look back at last weekend, and forward to Sunday

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.”

Can Cargin make the step up to Ulster success?

Ulster club football championship preliminary round

Erin’s Own Cargin v Derrygonnelly Harps

Corrigan Park (Sunday 2-30)

‘Is there nothing at all, only football in the lives of those people from Toome’, was the comment made by a less than enthusiastic bystander as the Cargin captain, Sean Og Quinn strode forward to accept the silverware following his sides victory in the Minor football championship at Corrigan park a couple of weeks past.

The remark passed by an individual who was obviously at the West Belfast arena supporting Cargin’s opponents in the under-18 decider was presented in sarcasm, and not without a touch of vitriol towards their country cousins, but in content was not without merit.

There is no boat club in Toome despite the close proximity to a wide picturesque sandy bay in which not a single yacht is moored, and similarly not a tennis ball is ever delivered on the lush lawn of a tennis club, or a curiously shaped ‘football’ sent between the tall posts on a rugby pitch, and a couple of generations has passed since there was a ‘soccer team’ in the village.

If you do take a dander up Toome street and take a right at the end of the village on to the Shore road you will find yourself at the grounds of Erin’s Own Cargin, a formidable unit of Cumann Luthchleas Gael founded on the dreams of a fresh faced young priest assigned to the parish of Cargin in a time of turbulence in Ireland.

Father Dan Maginnis, a native of Belfast arrived to take residence at the parish and was to get together with a few likeminded locals to provide the spark to light a flame which has grown to a beacon over the generations and lead the club to the forefront of affairs in the Saffron County.

One of those who got together with the enthusiastic young curate and likeminded locals in the formation of the new unit of the Association was the local schoolteacher one Mr O’ Connor formerly of County Cork whose suggestion on giving the club the name, Erin’s Own was accepted, and thus the story which was to have many chapters, began in 1923.

A local club Lamh Dhearg had captured the Antrim championship a few years prior to the formation of Erin’s Own and such success had most likely provided inspiration but in the event this unit failed to build on their success and folded less than a generation later.

The Erin’s Own club was based in and around the Cargin area on several locations in their early years, but success on the field of play proved elusive in the formative years and it was after moving to their present base at the Shore road in Toome in the early 1950s that they tasted success taking the Junior football title in 1953.

It would be a while in waiting before Cargin made the breakthrough in the blue riband competition and a full 21 years before a first senior crown was worn in 1974 with a follow up not achieved until 1995.

The club were progressing on an upward curve both in development and on the field of play with the backing of a local company ‘Thornton Roofing’ secured and as the end of the millennium approached they added a couple more senior titles and the future looked bright.

Further development to include a second floodlight pitch and an Astor- turf facility in the new millennium followed, and when Michael McCann raised the Mac Namee trophy aloft last week following an epic victory gained over Lamh Dhearg the Toome men had completed a league and championship double supplemented by a minor title to complete a seldom achieved unique treble in the Saffron county.

By such juncture Erin’s Own had their name inscribed nine times on the Mac Namee trophy.

People in Cargin eat and breath football. They are fanatics about the game and turn out in big numbers to support their teams wherever they are playing and Corrigan can be guaranteed another massive influx from the village come Sunday.

Damien Cassidy’s men will now seek to dust themselves down and get themselves ready for another challenge looming large on the horizon as they prepare for a Provincial opener as they face Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly Harps in the Ulster Club championship at the same venue on Sunday.

The Antrim champs will hope to have shaken off the effects of a gruelling 80 minutes in that ‘extra time’ victory in last week-end’s thriller at Corrigan and injuries to the Mc Cann’s, Gerard and Michael who were forced out of the thrill a minute action at the west Belfast venue.

On a positive note, and as the old adage states, ‘any team is only as strong as its bench’ such strength in depth was more than evident in their win last week when those called upon as replacements really answered the call.

The Toome men have not made much impression on the Ulster trail in the past with a single win gained over the Tyrone representatives Carrickmore way back in 1999 their only success.

They did ask questions of Crossmaglen that year in the semi-finals with a late controversial call aiding the Armagh champions, who went on to take the All Ireland title that year.

Last year, despite a slow start and the concession of three first half goals they really staged a strong second half come-back against the Donegal representatives Gaoth Dobhair but all the damage had been done in the opening 30 minutes.

Gaoth Dobhair went on to lift the Ulster title before losing out in the All Ireland semi-final so the club can certainly take positives from last year’s performance but will be keen not to concede goals this Sunday.

Derrygonnelly Harps provide the Erin’s Own with another stiff test. The Fermanagh champions have just collected their fifth county championship in succession but like Cargin they haven’t quite managed to make the step up on the Ulster stage as yet.

They did reach an Ulster semi-final a couple of years ago but lost out to Cavan Gaels after a replay and were unfortunate to have come up against Slaughtneil in their two previous campaigns and will see Sunday’s game as an opportunity to make the breakthrough.

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy was glowing about the character of his side in an interview with the Saffron Gael this week as he led them to a second county championship in his two years at the helm.

It’s that character and never say die spirit that can get them over Sunday’s hurdle. Cassidy stated that he would have preferred to have had Lamh Dhearg’s momentum going into the drawn game and he was proved correct.

That momentum will be with the Toome men on Sunday and a Corrigan Park filled with some of the most vociferous spectators in the county can inspire them to a first Ulster win in two decades.

John McNabb, Justin Crozier, James Laverty, Marty Kane, Michael, Paul and Tomas McCann with Michael Magill bring experience and composure to Cargin’s Ulster campaign but under Damian Cassidy and his management team a number of promising youngsters have emerged.

Pat Shivers, Jimmy Gribbin and Ciaran Bradley were prominent in last Saturday’s success and are all likely to start on Sunday. The return of Kevin O’Boyle from a long term injury and the scoring prowess of Kieran Close when sprung from the bench has been another bonus.

Cargin will probably start Sunday’s Ulster preliminary round encounter as underdogs but that will surely suit them and thewy look more than capable of winning this one. As Tony Scullion, who inspired and delivered again last week end commented,  ‘The thing about our club is that although we come from a small community we will always give everything for the cause and fight to the death’.

Damian Cassidy: “To say I’m proud of them is an understatement”

By Brendan McTaggart

Cargin manager Damian Cassidy made it two from two on Saturday afternoon.  In the second year of his tenure as Cargin manager, the Bellaghy native has made it back to back titles and he was delighted to have saw his team finally get over the line. 

The Erins Own men were pushed to the limit over the two games and had to delve into their vast resources to get over the line.  Their character and temperament were stretched while mentally, Cargin were pushed to a place they haven’t been this year.  Cassidy’s men responded in kind to edge Lámh Dhearg and he told us: “It’s (performance) very pleasing, there’s no other way to describe it.  One of the most important qualities in championship football is that thing inside you that keeps you going.  You never stop, never submit, that resilience and stubbornness.  You have to have that in bucketful’s. 

“To be fair to Lámh Dhearg, they’ve had a fantastic campaign and they’ve demonstrated they have those qualities throughout the championship.  They’ll be massively disappointed but they can be very proud and their club and community can be proud of their players.

“When I look at that period of extra time and the players who are legend around the club that weren’t involved that we would have been looking to for leadership and inspiration, the other lads that we’ve played through last year and this year who’ve came on, they made significant contributions in that period of extra time.

“That work was valuable and when all of that comes to roost, to say I’m proud of them is an understatement.” 

Cassidy couldn’t hide his frustration with the amount of injury time played at the end of the hour and extra time when he continued: “The referee found this incredible amount of injury time at the end of a ten minute game and the crowd were in disgust at what they were actually watching.  I couldn’t believe what I was watching on the sideline but the other side, even though we wanted the game to finish, in that period of injury time, I couldn’t see us losing if I’m honest.  I just felt we had all the aces and that’s not to say people can’t make mistakes and something could happen, I appreciate that but we just looked, in comparison to the end of normal time, we looked like we’d significantly learned from that.  We didn’t sit back, we drove on and attacked the game and the ball.

“We invited Lámh Dhearg on and let them back into it at the end of normal time.”

The Hannahstown men had Cargin on the ropes in the closing stages and Cassidy’s men let a four point lead slip with Lámh Dhearg forcing extra time.  “The psychological swing is massive” added the Cargin manager.  “We all know that and all the lads felt like they threw that game away.  I’m glad to say I’ve been involved in a few of these with Clonoe where we went to extra time and had to show that resolve.  I had the experience of knowing what to say, what to talk about, what to focus on and to get our attention on the detail we needed to kick on in extra time.”

Cassidy downplayed any notion of tiredness as the Toome men now turn their gaze to the Ulster club championship: “These two games will bring us on a mountain.  That was my worry before the game before and we talked about this beforehand.  The momentum Lámh Dhearg would carry into playing us, the sharpness, the composure under pressure, it would have been finely tuned in those games against Portglenone. 

“We never got out of first gear against Rossa and we weren’t stretched against St Galls and I knew we were vulnerable going into that game.  Lámh Dhearg really went at the game and knew we were going to struggle a bit as it would take us a while to get into the game and that’s how it transpired in the first half. 

“We dragged ourselves into it.  There was two games in a row where there’s been tremendous heart in the lads.  You can’t buy that stuff.

“To see players coming out into a cauldron, gladiators in front of maybe three, four or five thousand people.  They have to show their character and their worth.  As I said to the players, there isn’t that many places in life where you expose your character.  You might have problems at home, you might have problems at work, you might have problems in other places.  But this is the one place where you character is truly stripped bare and that’s the auditorium you’re in.

“The Cargin men showed last week and this week they’ve got serious, serious character.”