GAA Football

Lámh Dhearg boss Martin Lynch: Five teams could dethrone Cargin

Lámh Dhearg manager Martin Lynch. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC quarter-final (Sunday, 6pm, Glenavy): Creggan v Lámh Dhearg

AS many as five teams are on a level with reigning back-to-back Antrim champions Cargin – and Creggan are right near the top of that list believes Lámh Dhearg boss Martin Lynch.

The 2017 championship winning boss praised his side’s weekend opponents as having played “the best football in Antrim” over the last 18 months.

Lámh Dhearg took advantage of a Cargin blip in 2017 to win their first county title on the field since 1971, but the Toome men have rebounded to win the last two, needing a replay to get over the Lámhs last year.

Having seen off Ahoghill in their opener with a better second half than a first, the Hannahstown men face Kevin Madden’s side in Glenavy on Sunday evening.

“Creggan, while they haven’t won the championship and it’s bound to be playing on their nerves, are the form team in Antrim,” said Lynch.

“Cargin are still up there but anybody writes off Creggan would be very, very foolish. They’re playing the best football in Antrim over the last 24 months and they’ve been unfortunate not to win a championship. They’ve destroyed us in the league twice.”

When the sides met in six weeks ago, there were five red cards handed out in a three-point Creggan win that was only tightened by a late Declan Lynch goal.

He will miss this weekend’s game after damaging ankle ligaments in the win over Ahoghill, while Conor Murray is still not ready to go for a full game.

Lynch smiles as he recalls “the busy period” in that league game that saw four sent off at once, but feels it was just pre-championship bluster.

“It wasn’t a dirty match, it maybe just reflects that people knew they were meeting each other in championship and were squaring up and trying to mark out territory. I wouldn’t be worried about that.”

Having won the league last month, Cargin remain strong favourites to complete their third success in a row, but Lynch doesn’t subscribe to the idea that they’re that far out in front.

“You’ve two ways of looking at it. We played them a few years ago in a final where they beat us, we were without five of our starting six forwards and they only beat us by four points.

“I don’t see it as them taking a dip, I think the standard of the others had gone up. St John’s are as good a side as is about, Portglenone on their day are as good as anybody, Creggan have risen to the top end as well.

“Don’t write off St Gall’s – they’re still the best organised, capable team in Antrim. Yes, the legs are running out a wee bit, but they’ve a system second-to-none and all the players are telepathic in it.

“And don’t underestimate Rossa, who play Cargin. When you’ve Stephen Beatty, Michael Armstrong, Chris McGuinness on the park, here…

“I’m looking forward to this year, six teams could do it. I’m not buying that Cargin have to be weaker.

“They’re still the form team in Antrim, but this is different this year. There’s six teams on a par with each other. We went up in the last match of the league and Portglenone gave us a drubbing.

“I just see it as different this year. There’s no invincibility about Cargin.”

Lámh Dhearg’s own hand is still steadied by a clutch of former Antrim veterans who had knocked hard on the door before they finally found the key two years ago.

But rather than see it as the number of chances this team has left running out, Lynch believes they’re ideally positioned in terms of age profile.

“I’d look at it the other way. Yes, there are the lads that age and fair play to them, but if you look at the overall age of our team, it’s way down. We still have lads who are 19 and 20.

“There’s a healthy balance. I’m not a great believer in people coming to the end – everybody does you a job, and teams without that balance aren’t as good as those with it.

“You need the John Finucanes and Paddy Cunninghams and Michael Herrons, who are just above everybody else in the league in looking after themselves.

“I’d see it as a positive rather than a negative.”

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