Lamh Dhearg await winners of St John's and Cargin replay in Antrim final
Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC semi-finals: Erin’s Own Cargin 0-11 St John’s 0-11; Kickham’s, Creggan 1-9 Lamh Dhearg 1-13
CARGIN’s quest for a third successive Antrim SFC title remains on track, but only just after they salvaged a draw against St John’s in a fiery semi-final clash at Hannahstown.
Erin’s Own were hot favourites going into the match, having also retained the Division One league title earlier in the season.
However, St John’s are a re-emerging force, back-boned by the squad which plundered back-to-back U21 titles in 2014 and 2015.
However, they will be without Adrian Oliver and Ronan McCafferty for the replay as both were dismissed for straight red cards, as was Cargin’s Donnach McKeever.
The Johnnies will feel like they left this one behind them as they led by three with three minutes of normal time remaining before being reeled in by John Brennan’s experienced campaigners.
The first half was a close affair with St John’s shading the exchanges at 0-6 to 0-4 with Oliver and McKeever receiving their marching order before the break.
Led by the brilliant Paddy McBride, St John’s extended their lead to five points on the restart and Cargin’s reign as champions was looking questionable.
However, the Toome outfit refused to panic and substitutes Tony Scullion and Jamie Gribbin helped them gain momentum with Tomas McCann cool in front of the posts.
Still, when St John’s goalkeeper Padraig Nugent converted a 45 and Cargin trailed by three.
McCann’s brace of frees either side of a Gribbin point from play ensured Cargin lived to fight another day.
McBride had a late chance to claim a dramatic win for his side, but his free dropped short of the target, while McCafferty was dismissed deep into injury-time for an off-the-ball incident.
On Saturday afternoon, Lamh Dhearg secured their place in the county final with a hard-fought 1-13 to 1-9 win over Creggan at Glenavy.
The Hannahstown men were rattled by the concession of a goal after just two minutes. Conor Small’s attempt to open the scoring hit the post, but his brother Kevin was on hand to smash the rebound past John Finucane.
The elder Small sibling was successful on his second attempt at a point moments later before Domhnall Nugent got his side on the scoreboard after five minutes.
A third Paddy Cunningham free leveled proceedings at 0-6 to 1-3 after 20 minutes before the former Antrim star gave Lamh Dhearg the lead for the first time in the game.
Ryan Murray’s blistering pace allowed him to get in behind the Creggan defence, but his shot was well saved by Oisin Kerr.
However, the Kickham’s goalkeeper could only palm the ball into the path of the incoming Cunningham who smashed the ball into the net from close range.
Leading by three at the break, the Hannahstown men extended their advantage to seven with scores from Brendan McComb, Cunningham (free) and a Conor Murray brace.
Creggan responded with four unanswered points of their own via Sam Maguire, Kevin Small, Ruairi McCann and substitute Liam Quinn.
Kickham’s showed great heart to cut the gap to two points with just five minutes remaining with Small and Aidan McKeown finding the target to set up a thrilling finale.
However, Lamh Dhearg’s greater experience won out on the day and two Cunningham frees secured a four-point win for his side.
Cargin scorers: T McCann (0-5, 0-4 frees), K Close (0-2), M McCann, J Carron, K O’Boyle, J Gribbin (0-1 each)
St John’s scorers: P McBride (0-3 frees), M Fitzpatrick, R McNulty (0-2 each), P Nugent (0-2 45s), Conor Johnston, M Bradley (0-1 each)
Creggan scorers: K Small (1-1), C Small (0-3), R McCann (0-2, 0-1 free), S Maguire, L Quinn, A McKeown (0-1 each).
Lamh Dhearg scorers: P Cunningham (1-7, 0-6 frees), C Murray (0-3), B McComb, D Nugent, E McKeown (0-1 each).