Lamh Dhearg's Paddy Cunningham glad to get a second bite
Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC replay: Cargin v Lámh Dhearg (Sunday, 1pm, Corrigan Park)
AS Mark McGarry came powering through the middle of the Cargin defence in stoppage time, you could see Paddy Cunningham’s mind start to tick.
Waited for his man to get sucked to the ball and then demanded the pass. Not a second’s hesitation from there. The angle’s perfect to go across the ‘keeper, and the second it leaves his left foot, he knows it’s destined for the net, six inches inside the far post. Unstoppable.
It’s almost enough to steal victory away for Lámh Dhearg. To win a game like champions would win it, playing poorly. But Tomás McCann equalises and they can’t argue.
At half-time, their crown was hanging from their head. Six down and having performed so poorly, so flatly, that it was hard to see a way back, they were revived by Michael Herron’s early second half goal.
Their improvement was notable, but Cunningham admits that the overwhelming emotion was sheer relief to get a second go at it.
“We were extremely disappointed with the way we performed in the first half. I don’t know what it was, we just never got going.
“You have to give credit to Cargin, they came out of the blocks bouncing and that was reflected in the scoreboard at half-time.
“I suppose it was about time to look at ourselves collectively at half-time because I don’t think any of us did ourselves justice in the first half, and it was just about putting that right.
“To be totally honest, I think we’re just thankful for another chance because we didn’t deserve to win that game and we were lucky enough to get out of jail with a draw.
“To be fair, we could have packed up and went home at half-time but we didn’t. We came out and showed the character and togetherness that’s in the squad, and that showed in the second half what we can do when we put our minds to it.
“A lot of teams would’ve gone on home at half-time and went out and got beaten by 10 or 12 points. We crawled it back and crawled it back. One thing about this team, we’ll never go away.”
They’ll all be in Belfast on Sunday afternoon for a second meeting, with the replay having been confirmed for 1pm in Corrigan Park.
That’ll have a much greater feel of home about it for the Hannahstown men, having been the ones with the journey to Creggan last weekend.
It had been a long wait for them prior to last year’s success, but having got a taste for it, Cunningham is keen to drive on again.
“Last year’s well and truly gone. You can look at the past when you’re sitting with the feet up in 10 or 15 years’ time, but we worked hard enough to try and win one and we don’t want to lose it too easily. Our performance wasn’t good enough.”