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.
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.