GAA Football

Old foes Cargin and St Gall's go toe-to-toe in Antrim semi-final showdown

Michael Pollock, left, has been in great form for St Gall's while Conor McGourty (centre) and Sean Burke (right) are available for the Cargin clash
By Anthony Gunning

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final: St Gall's v Erin's Own, Cargin (Today, Creggan, 4.30pm)

WITH 16 of the last 17 Antrim SFC titles between them, a meeting between St Gall's and Cargin is always going to command great attention and today the latest chapter in their rivalry will be written in Creggan.

A place in this year's final is the prize on offer, but both sides will have designs on going all the way this year, with Lamh Dhearg having broken their stranglehold on the McNamee Cup last year.

Cargin ended the Red Hands' reign last week with a six-point win in their quarter-final replay and Damien Cassidy's side have shown glimpses of their best form in both games against the Hannahstown men.

Tomas McCann shook off a slight ankle problem to play a full part last weekend and his accuracy from frees will be crucial for the Erin's Own men.

Bit by bit, the Toome side have been getting back to full strength and aside from Paul McCann, should have all available to play some part, meaning John Carron could be in line for a return.

They are still backboned by familiar faces, but Jamie Gribbin and Ciaran Bradley have all added fresh impetus to the Cargin starting 15, although Michael Magill remains the focal point of the attack with much of the play going through the big full-forward.

Michael McCann's red card last week after two yellows didn't upset Cargin too much as they controlled the second half against the defending champions, limiting them to just one point in that period.

Their approach has changed a little under Cassidy with ball retention, rather than swift attacks more the order of the day, but they have the intelligence on the ball to execute this game-plan to great effect.

St Gall's also contain vastly experience players adept at such an approach when required and like Cargin, their team comprises of a mix of experience and youth.

CJ McGourty returns from suspension having missed out in their routine quarter-final win over Portglenone, while they were boosted last weekend as Sean Burke returned to get some minutes in their Intermediate Hurling Championship final win over Creggan, so could come in to bolster the midfield.

Mickey Pollock was in excellent form in their quarter-final win and his partnership with McGourty is an obvious threat Cargin must address.

While Kevin Niblock, Aodhan Gallagher, Andy McClean, Sean Kelly, Terry O'Neill and Kieran McGourty are some of the names that remain from their heyday back at the start of the decade, the influx of fresh talent including Eoghan McCabe, Jackson McGreevy, Ryan Irvine and Tomas O Ciaran has helped St Gall's remain a major force.

Forget about both sides' league form this year, as they both measure success in county titles at this stage.

Cargin have won the last won Championship meetings between the teams including the 2016 final and at the quarter-final stage in 2015 when they halted the Milltown Row club's record-breaking run of eight consecutive titles.

Given how much they have won over the years, it's remarkable that St Gall's is the team with a point to prove today.

Both will raise their game considerably and neither will contemplate defeat, but there's just a hunch that St Gall's will edge this one.

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