GAA Football

Last-gasp Tomas McCann free sees champions snatch replay after Lamh Dhearg clash

Cargin's Michael McCann rattles home the only goal of the game after 48 minutes of yesterday's Antrim SFC final, which ended in a draw. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
From Neil Loughran at Corrigan Park

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship final: Erin’s Own, Cargin 1-10 Lamh Dhearg 0-13

WHEN Cargin needed them most, it was the McCanns who stepped up and did the business to bring Lamh Dhearg to yet another replay and leave them ruing the one that got away at Corrigan Park yesterday.

With the defending champions trailing by four 12 minutes from the end, and not really looking like closing the gap they had been chasing from early on, Michael McCann strode through to bury beyond the brilliant John Finucane and breathe new life into the Cargin charge.

Gerard McCann had come off the bench in the first half and made a massive impact at a time when Cargin were being dominated around the middle, while Paul McCann drove at Lamh Dhearg in the second half, bagging two crucial scores.

But it was brother Tomas who carried the weight of the pressure kick deep into the three minutes of added time. Trailing by one and with the whistle perched between referee Sean Laverty’s lips, Cargin’s grip on the Padraig MacNamee Cup was hanging by a thread.

Just as was the case when these two clubs met at the quarter-final stage last year, McCann made no mistake. Then, he buried a 45 to force a replay, yesterday it was more like 40-odd metres as he split the posts to unleash an almighty roar from the Cargin support.

The Erin’s Own were convincing winners in last year’s replay, but the Lamh Dhearg class of 2019 looks made of sterner stuff, as evidenced by their remarkable semi-final trilogy with Portglenone.

And while Cargin boss Damian Cassidy declined to speak to the waiting press after the game, Martin Lynch – despite seeing his side lose what looked a wining lead - was taking another drawn encounter in his stride.

“We've been here; we're used to this now, doing it the hard way,” said the Lamh Dhearg boss, whose men now face a seventh championship game of this campaign, with the replay expected to take place on Saturday, although no dare or venue has been confirmed.

“We’re still in the championship, we’re still up for it in the replay. I think we deserved to win, but you don't get what you deserve, you get what you earn. And we didn't manage the game over the last 10 minutes enough to see the game out.”

The Hannahstown men had come flying out of the blocks in the first half, dispelling any fears of potential leggyness as a result of that semi-final series, and led 0-6 to 0-1 after 21 minutes before eventually taking a 0-7 to 0-3 lead into the break.

Until the last five minutes when Cargin began to work the ball through full-forward Michael Magill more effectively, Declan Lynch had provided an excellent screen in front of the Lamh Dhearg full-back line.

Conor Murray and the towering Declan Dunne were on top at midfield, several turnovers were forced, leading to quick breaks, the raids of young Ben Rice proving particularly eye-catching – although he might have been lucky to only see yellow for a head high tackle on Michael McCann.

And any time Paddy Cunningham was given a go at the posts from frees, he made it look easy.

But there were signs that Cargin, who lost the experienced Tony Scullion to a hamstring injury after 26 minutes, were just creeping back into the game at the close of the half.

The introduction of Gerard McCann offered more of a physical presence around the middle, while Magill set up Tomas McCann for Cargin’s second score of the day before seeing his own effort at goal fly over the bar, courtesy of Finucane’s fingertips, just before the break.

Lamh Dhearg moved Conor Murray into full-forward for the start of the second half but it was Rice again doing the damage as he profited from a break swept up by Lynch, bursting through to fire over.

That extended their lead to five, 0-9 to 0-4, but 1-1 from Cargin inside three minutes turned this game on its head. Gerard McCann landed the point, the goal coming from Michael McCann after Lamh Dhearg coughed up possession while on the attack.

James Laverty made a vital interception that set the Erin’s Own on the front foot, Enda McGrogan found Paul McCann who popped it off to Michael and he didn’t break stride before rattling Finucane’s net.

A perfect Cargin counter and, with only a point in it, all the momentum was now with the champions.

This was the test of tired legs Lamh Dhearg knew would come, and they answered impressively with the next two points from Rice – after a super mark from Dunne – and then Eoin McKeown, cutting on to his right before steering between the posts.

They could have closed the game out completely two minutes later when Marc Jordan bounded through, only to fire over the bar when the goal was at his mercy.

Another goal chance came and went in the 59th minute too when McKeown this time side-footed straight at Cargin ’keeper John McNabb after good work from Conor Murray and Jordan found him in space five metres out.

You can’t allow a side with Cargin’s experience off the hook like that and a wonderful Michael McCann score, cutting in from the end line before pinging over with his left foot, narrowed the gap.

Brother Tomas reduced the deficit to one on 60 minutes set up a nervy finish before the same man held his nerve to ensure they do it all again.

“We had our match-ups and mark-ups done right, we think we called it right in terms of how we set ourselves up… Cargin are county champions though, and they’re league champions, and they’re not that for nothing,” said Martin Lynch, who saw three players – Terry McCrudden, Ryan Murray and Michael Herron - shown black cards, the last two coming in added time.

“The killer factor was that we missed goals. We made mistakes but we missed goals and had opportunities twice in the last 15 to take goals and we didn't take them.

“We knew that in the second half Cargin would come back at us and we would be under pressure for spells. I don't think that was the key indicator. I think the key indicator was that we made silly mistakes and gave the ball away in the final third, in the last 10 minutes.

“And I think if we hadn't have done that, we would be sitting here as championship winners.”

Cargin: J McNabb; D McKeever, J Laverty; K O’Boyle; M Kane, T Scullion, J Crozier; D Johnston, J Carron, M McCann (1-1); J Gribben, P McCann (0-2), C Bradley; T McCann (0-5, 0-3 frees), M Magill (0-1). Subs: G McCann (0-1) for Carron (25), E McGrogan for T Scullion (26), K McShane for Johnston (42), K Close for McGrogan (54), G McCorley for Kane (59)

Yellow cards: J Carron (13), M Kane (27), P McCann (46), D McKeever (51), C Bradley (60),

Lamh Dhearg: J Finucane; P Mervyn, M McGarry; D Lynch; C Nolan, M Herron, B Rice (0-3); D Dunne (0-1, 45), K Quinn; E McKeown (0-1), C Murray (0-1), M Jordan (0-1), R Murray; P Cunningham (0-6, frees), T McCrudden. Subs: C McIlvenny for Nolan (45)

Black cards: T McCrudden, replaced by R Stranney (46), R Murray, replaced by M Finnegan (60), M Herron, not replaced (60+3)

Yellow cards: P Cunningham (9), B Rice (19),

Referee: S Laverty (Moneyglass)

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