GAA Football

Derrygonnelly too strong for Cargin to advance into Ulster Club quarter-final clash with Trillick

Derrygonnelly's Gavin McGovern, who scored the Harps' second goal at Corrigan Park yesterday, holds off Cargin's Donagh McKeever. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Neil Loughran at Corrigan Park

AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship preliminary round: Erin’s Own, Cargin (Antrim) 0-12 Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) 2-10

A COUPLE of minutes into yesterday’s Ulster Club opener, Conall Jones offloaded the ball sideways as green jerseys closed in. Seeing the space open up, his brother Garvan rumbled forward but appeared unsure what option to take.

Before he could settle on one, he was met with a thundering shoulder from Tony Scullion that left the Derrygonnelly man on the ground. It was perfectly-timed and expertly executed, a thing of beauty in its own right.

Unfortunately for the Antrim champions, it was one of the very few moments that allowed the Toome faithful to warm their hands on an afternoon when they were second best to their Fermanagh counterparts.

There’s no doubt the extra-time exertions of the previous two weeks against Lamh Dhearg had taken a toll; if not necessarily in terms of tiredness, then definitely in terms of personnel.

Midfielder Gerard McCann went off early in last week’s replayed Antrim final and looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. They badly missed his aerial presence around the middle, where Derrygonnelly duo Ryan Jones and Stephen McGullion were dominant.

The influential Michael McCann, meanwhile, didn’t start after being forced off towards the end of regulation time last week. When he eventually entered the fray 43 minutes in, Cargin were six back.

Yet that is not to take away from a Derrygonnelly performance that oozed experience and know-how. Ulster Club wins haven’t been easy to come by for the Ernemen, let alone on the road, and they were good value for this one.

Playing into a stiff breeze in the first half, they pressed hard on the Cargin kick-outs, and seemed to get their hands on every break going as they assumed control after a Kieran Close free had given the Erin’s Own an early lead.

They got their reward in the form of two goals by the quarter hour mark – though luck was on their side for the first as Conall Jones’s attempt to split the posts got held up in the breeze and dropped straight into the net.

To be fair to Cargin ’keeper John McNabb, the low autumn sun didn’t help his cause; either did Stephen McGullion’s run across him at the crucial moment.

The Harps were getting plenty of joy down the right side, in front of their own supporters, with Garvan McGinley and Declan Cassidy combining brilliant to create space time and again.

And it was from this avenue that their second goal came, McGinley finding Stephen McGullion bombing into the square, and when his shot was stopped on the line by Martin Kane, Gavin McGovern was on hand to tap into an empty net.

A superb McGinley score from the same wing and a Garvan Jones free extended Derrygonnelly’s lead to six, 2-3 to 0-3, against the breeze. Short of the occasional moment of brilliant from Close, Cargin looked lost.

McGovern could have added injury to insult with another goal before the break but fired over instead of rattling the net.

The introduction of Kevin McShane gave Damian Cassidy’s men a bit more drive after the break, but they were still too tentative in possession when confronted with a wall of purple and gold.

The likes of Lee and Garvan Jones took advantage of the wind to help Derrygonnelly keep Cargin at arm’s length, though three unanswered points between the 44th and 50th – two Tomas McCann frees and a Paul McCann score after patient play - at least gave them something to chew on heading towards the final 10.

But, with their back line well marshalled by Tiarnan Daly, Jack Love and Michael Jones, there was never any sense of panic emanating from the Derrygonnelly ranks, and sub Neil Gallagher’s long-range effort drew the biggest roar of the day as it sailed between the posts a minute into added time.

“It’s an away win in the Ulster Club, so it’s another wee line in the sand for us,” said Brendan Rasdale, joint manager of the five in-a-row Fermanagh champions.

“That’s another step for these boys. We knew Cargin were a good side, maybe the three games on the bounce caught up with them in the end. They picked up those couple of injuries.

“We’d had a three week run up, which wasn’t something Cargin had in fairness, so we felt we had our set-ups pretty good, that we could put them under pressure in a couple of key areas.

“We did very well in the middle third on break ball - that’s nothing tactical, every single game you go out looking to do well on secondary possession. That gave us a platform.”

And, as a teacher at St Michael’s College in Enniskillen, Rasdale is well aware of what lies ahead when they take on the Tyrone champions Trillick at Brewster Park on November 3.

“I’ve coached virtually every one of them,” he said with a smile.

“If I could annex a wee area for Fermanagh, it definitely would be Trillick. They’re two clubs that know each other very well – we play each other on the third week in July every year in a challenge game.

“We played this year, I think they beat us, and that was without Mattie and Richie [Donnelly], but it was still a good contest. Trillick know us, we know them; it’s probably quite unusual for the Ulster club for two clubs to know each other so well.”

Cargin: J McNabb; D McKeever, M Kane; K O’Boyle; J Laverty, T Scullion, J Crozier; P Shivers, J Carron; P McCann (0-1), C Bradley, J Gribben (0-1), K Close (0-5, 0-3 frees); T McCann (0-3, frees), M Magill. Subs: K McShane (0-2) for P Shivers (HT), M Clarke for M Magill (38), M McCann for T Scullion (43), P Shivers for K Close (57)

Blood sub: G McCorley for D McKeever (25, reversed 30+1)

Yellow cards: D McKeever (34, 60+2), T Scullion (39)

Red card: D McKeever (60+2)

Derrygonnelly: J Kelly; J Love, T Daly, M Jones, L Jones (0-1), Shane McGullion, G McGinley (0-1); R Jones, Stephen McGullion; G McGovern (1-1), K Cassidy, E McHugh, D Cassidy; C Jones (1-1, 0-1 free), G Jones (0-5, 0-2 frees). Subs: C Maguire for G McGovern (43), N Gallagher (0-1) for K Cassidy (55), R McHugh for D Cassidy (60+1)

Yellow cards: J Love (37), Stephen McGullion (50), D Cassidy (60)

Referee: P Faloon (Down)

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