GAA Football

Michael McCann quietly confident over Cargin hopes

Former Antrim stalwart Michael McCann in action for Cargin. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC quarter-final: Cargin v Lámh Dhearg (Sunday, 7.30pm, Creggan)

FOR a brief time, one dynasty threatened to replace the other in Antrim football.

Across a significant portion of St Gall’s 15-year reign, Cargin were the bridesmaids. Finals, semi-finals, sore ones and harsh ones. When the window swung open in 2006, they jumped through it.

It took until the Milltown men found themselves on the far side of the hill for Cargin to send them properly tumbling over. And then they won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016, winning the deciders by nine (2015 v Lámh Dhearg) and eight points (2016 v Gall’s) respectively.

But they didn’t sustain it last year and since then, a fair bit’s changed. Lámh Dhearg and St John’s ended up in the final last year, while St Gall’s form this year suggests the next blue wave is rolling in. Creggan have become like the new Cargin, knocking and knocking on the door waiting for it to open.

At least one will fall in Creggan on Sunday evening when the last two champions meet. For Michael McCann, now 33 and with three county medals, the window is closing again.

Cargin are once more favourites to take the title but their league form hasn’t been outstanding. McCann says that they are “quietly confident” of getting back to the summit.

“We are [under the radar]. Because the beast that St Gall’s were, they’ve found a bit of structure again.

“After we beat them in the first round a few years ago and then the final two years ago, they had a bit of a dip the last couple of years.

“But they’ve found a bit of a structure again, new young players that are shifting well, and they’re coming back up. Lámh Dhearg are the reigning champions, St John’s beat us last year and everybody’s talking about them, and Creggan are top of the league and shifting well.

“We’re probably floating in around there and there’s no expectation on us, which is a good thing.

“We still fancy our chances like everybody. We’ve still some of the best footballers in the county. We’ve a few young lads and a new manager trying to stamp his way on things.

“Sometimes during the year it maybe hasn’t clicked for us, this new way of playing and doing things, but we’ve floated along there nicely. Bar a couple of odd results, we still would’ve been up about the top of the league. Quietly confident, as such.”

Despite carrying the favourites’ tag, it doesn’t bear the same weight as it would have done in past years. McCann feels that, as holders, the pressure is on the Hannahstown men ahead of Sunday night’s clash.

“It takes the pressure off a wee bit [not being champions], but there’s still an expectation that we still believe we were good enough last year to win the championship. We got beat by a point after a replay and extra-time.

“We had won the league, but the way things fell we got pipped. There’s still an expectation on us, and maybe moreso now to see if we can get back there.

“But we’ve nothing to lose, we’re playing the county champions who have a game under them. We’re going in fairly raw.

“Lámh Dhearg wouldn’t have gone overly well in the league but they’re a fairly good championship team, they know how to play championship football. The pressure’s probably on them more than us.”

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