GAA Football

Cargin's Tomas McCann defends elder brother Michael in red-card dismissal

Cargin's Michael McCann received a controversial red card and is set to miss this season's county decider

TOMAS McCann remains confident his brother Michael will have his red card rescinded and be free to play in this season's Antrim Senior Football Championship final as Cargin chase down three-in-a-row against neighbours Creggan Kickhams on Sunday September 20.

The elder McCann was sent off towards the end of last Saturday's feisty semi-final with Lamh Dhearg for an alleged head-butt. McCann appeared genuinely shocked to receive a red card from referee Colm McDonald who acted on the advice of his officials.

Streamed ‘live' on Facebook by Antrim GAA, the footage shows McCann and a Lamh Dhearg opponent hauling at each other's jerseys after Cargin's Pat Shivers was felled by Michael Herron and was also red-carded.

It is unclear if the footage captured all of the incident or part of it that prompted McCann's red.

Cargin's Marty Kane was cited in the schmozzle and was also red-carded.

Both players protested their innocence.

Sources from the the Erin's Own club last night confirmed they will appeal both red card decisions.

Cargin were leading by a couple of points with a few minutes remaining in a titanic struggle at St Enda's Glengormley when some members of each team became embroiled in tangles which was brought to order very quickly by the referee.

It was no surprise the younger McCann leapt to his brother's defence, pointing to the 35-year-old's disciplinary record during his long career.

“I think Mick will get his red card overturned,” said Tomas. “He thought he was going to get booked and he said: ‘Colin, there was nothing in that.'

“Apparently one of his officials said he head-butted. Mick said to the ref he'd never head-butted anybody in his life. We got two players sent off and there wasn't one Lamh Dhearg man down or injured.

“There's not a mission Michael head-butted anybody. It's just not something he would do in a game and anybody that knows him would say the same.

“You're winning a championship semi-final by a couple of points, why would you head-butt somebody? I'd love to see Mick's disciplinary record over the years.

“I was there and Mick and the Lamh Dhearg player just seemed to be pulling each other's jerseys, it was a pulling match. I watched the video back on Sunday night and that's all it was. That's why it was such a big surprise when the referee told him he was off. There is no way Mick would have been that stupid.”

There were incendiary incidents all over the pitch last weekend with county team-mates Tomas McCann and Declan Lynch engaged in a couple of off-the-ball incidents in the first half. Next month the pair will be on the same team trying to seal Antrim's promotion out of Division Four.

“I wouldn't expect to go into full-forward and the full-back not to be at me – and Decky knows that,” McCann said.

“We were at each other, don't get me wrong, but we came out for the second half and we knew we were at the point where we had to calm it down, otherwise it could have finished both of us getting sent off. I was maybe getting frustrated over the way the first half had gone. We weren't fluid, we were giving ball away, I was more or less spectating the game.”

In the couple possessions Tomas McCann had in a dire opening period for Cargin, the county ace won and converted a penalty and a ‘mark' to keep the defending champions in touch at the break.

But Damian Cassidy's men emerged a different team in the second half, working the ball up field with precision and pace before man-of-the-match Pat Shivers blasted to the net to reassert Cargin's dominance.

“We pressed up a bit in the second half and five minutes into the half I went to 11 and Pat [Shivers] went to 14 and I think it suited us. I was able to run the ball more and then big Pat was getting on the end of things, and Pat is a clinical finisher too.

“Pat is dangerous under the high ball too, but that's the option you maybe have by just changing one position. Our running game just got better in the second half. To be fair to Damian and the management team there is a lot of work that goes into being on the ball under pressure.”

After Lamh Dhearg won the 2017 county title, Cargin assumed top spot in 2018 and 2019. The club have won 10 senior titles in their history but never three in a row – but McCann doesn't feel weighed down by the prospect.

“The way I look at it, I've always kept things simple,” he said.

“You're literally just trying to win the next game. I think sometimes if you think of winning something too much, you start over-thinking it. I don't know what the rest of the boys think but I don't think about winning three in a row.”

Cargin's dominance began with a low-scoring final victory [0-5 to 0-4] over rivals Creggan in 2018, a game that was derided for its negativity.

“It's just that local thing that nobody wants to lose,” McCann said of Cargin's duels with the Kickhams.

“What happened two years ago was the two teams got too cautious and it turned into defensive game. It's hard to explain until you're actually involved in it. There were that many bodies weighing into their own 45s it was crazy. No-one wanted to shift out of it. Don't get me wrong, we didn't give a sh*t because we won it, but I don't think this final will be like that one.”

While McCann has his eyes fixed on the county decider he's looking forward to hooking up with Antrim afterwards having been sidelined for most of 2020 with injury. After undergoing surgery, he was scheduled to return to action against Wicklow before Covid19 shut down the inter-county season in mid-March.

He tweaked his hamstring in a league game after lockdown eased and only returned to action in the last championship group game against Aghgallon before starting against Lamh Dhearg on Saturday.

“So I don't mind going back playing for Antrim as I haven't played a lot of games,” McCann said.

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