Cargin reclaim county title as Creggan rue missed chances
Antrim Senior Football Championship final: Erin’s Own, Cargin 0-5 Creggan Kickhams 0-4
WHEN you score four points in a final, you don’t deserve to bring the silverware home. When you score five points, you probably don’t deserve to either – but favourites Erin’s Own, Cargin stumbled over the line yesterday to claim their eighth county championship title.
It was one of those afternoons where a fair result would have been a draw, which would have allowed the two teams to forget that yesterday’s rancid game ever took place, return a week later and get significantly closer to their potential in the replay.
The slight problem with that scenario was that half the crowd wouldn’t have taken their chances of paying in to watch a repeat.
Yesterday’s Antrim senior final in Ahoghill was a chronic spectacle.
Cargin, of course, won’t give two hoots about the poor aesthetics of yesterday’s decider - nor the fact that Creggan Kickhams kicked themselves out of winning their first senior title since 1954.
In a game that yielded just nine scores – eight from play – the Creggan boys will wince when they look at their wide tally of 12.
Kevin Madden’s men missed the target seven times in the second half and with each effort that sailed past Cargin’s goalposts you could see the confidence drain from this young Kickhams crew.
In many ways it was fitting that the winning score came from Michael McCann.
Cargin’s ageless wonder was a class apart from anything else on the field.
With the vast majority of players on both sides struggling with the windy conditions and occasion, McCann played simple but flawless football.
In the 52nd minute, the former Antrim playmaker cut in from the left and clipped over a fine point, and the 2016 champions just about managed to protect their slender one-point advantage for the remainder of this final, including four minutes of stoppage-time.
The Cargin players and bench went wild at the final whistle, while the Creggan players slumped to their knees ruing a host of missed chances.
Damian Cassidy, sent off at the start of the second half for protesting too strongly at some refereeing decisions, delivered the goods in his first season in charge of the Erin’s Own club.
For long periods of yesterday’s clash, Cargin couldn’t find a way past Creggan’s well-ordered defensive structure.
Cargin kept the ball unopposed around their own ’65 and when they did try to break down Creggan they were invariably turned over.
When they did aim for imposing full-forward Michael Magill with long punts, Ricky Johnston was in imperious form for the Kickhams.
Ricky's brother Martin entered the fray as early as the 12th minute and Creggan looked more imposing. But they couldn’t convert enough chances.
Magill, ironically, opened Cargin’s account in the opening seconds before the lively Kevin Small hit back-to-back scores for Creggan – one free – in the 11th and 18th minutes.
The impressive Ciaran Bradley escaped the zealous clutches of the Creggan defence to nab his first of two scores of the day in the 19th minute to level the game, 0-2 to 0-2.
And that’s the way it stayed until half-time as both sides were guilty of some poor efforts on goal.
Tomas McCann, Cargin’s semi-final goal hero, finally made an impact on this final with an incredible 37th minute score.
He dropped deeper to gain possession and to run at the Creggan defence, and from a ridiculous angle and distance he put his side 0-3 to 0-2 in front.
A minute later, Bradley put two between the sides before Creggan responded. Martin Johnston hit a brilliant point on the run and county hurler Conor McCann raced clear of the Cargin back-line to level the tie after 44 minutes.
Conor Small missed a couple of gilt-edged chances to put Creggan ahead with Tiarnan McAteer and Kevin Small (free) also failing to convert.
The fact that a huge number of the Cargin side have travelled this terrain before was key.
Up popped Michael McCann to nudge them ahead with eight minutes of normal time remaining, and although there were some nervy keep-ball moments, Cargin held on to claim victory.
Donegal champions Gweedore, whom they face on November 4 in the Ulster series, won’t be shaking in their boots.
Many of the big crowd will remember yesterday's final for being a terrible spectacle.
Cargin will simply remember the taste of victory. And that's all that matters.
Erin’s Own, Cargin: J McNabb; D McKeever, K O’Boyle, J Laverty; T Scullion, J Crozier, M Kane; G McCann, J Gribbin; J Carron, M McCann (0-1), C Bradley (0-2); E McGrogan, M Magill (0-1), T McCann (0-1) Subs: C Close for J Carron (38), D Johnston for E McGrogan (42), G McCorley for K O’Boyle (47), K McShane for G McCann (50)
Yellow cards: G McCann (10), J McCarron (20)
Creggan Kikchams: O Kerr; A Maguire, R Johnston, C McCann (c); S Maguire, T McCann, R McCann; C McCann (0-1), K Rice; O McLarnon, K Small (0-2, 0-1 free), F Burke; L Quinn, C Small, M Rodgers Subs: M Johnston (0-1) for M Rodgers (12), T McAteer for O McLarnon (38), D McGuckin for F Burke (47), P Coey for K Rice (56)
Blood substitution: T McAteer for M Johnston (20-21)
Referee: K Doherty (Rasharkin)