Creggan climbed the mountain but another one awaits us: Ruairi McCann
VICTORIOUS Kickham's Creggan ace Ruairi McCann says in overcoming champions Cargin they had “climbed the mountain” that had too often beaten them – but another one awaits them in the final in 12 days' time.
McCann grabbed the insurance strike in Sunday's epic semi-final that saw the three-in-a-row champions crash out. Creggan had lost the 2018 and 2020 senior finals to their close neighbours – but Gerard McNulty's men pulled off the unthinkable in a power-packed performance.
Entering the semi-final stage, Cargin were red-hot favourites having played some sublime football this season.
“We obviously have our rivalry with Cargin because we're neighbouring parishes and overlapping with one another but they were still the champions, so they become the mountain. And you have to climb that," said McCann.
“If you want to win the championship, we knew we'd have to beat them. People were asking where do you want to play them – it doesn't matter; you have to beat them.
“We knew to get over the line we were going to have to bring a massive performance and do something that, quite frankly, we haven't done since I've been playing and that was beating Cargin in a championship match.”
McCann played a starring role too, grabbing five points while Jamie McCann, midfielders Conor McCann and Kevin Small were equally impressive in Creggan's brilliant three-point victory.
McNulty's side came into the semi-finals slightly under the radar having struggled to overcome St John's in a low-scoring quarter-final.
But they managed to “flip the script” in seven days to produce a barnstorming second half after trailing by 2-5 to 0-7 at the break.
“You can analyse the game in three ways: you attack, you defend and you've got your kick-outs. Whilst everybody was focusing on our scoring exploits [1-8 against St John's], our defence was amazing last week and from a kick-out point of view Oisin [Kerr] is awesome.
“We knew we just had to fix one phase of our game and we talked a lot during the week about getting our conversion rate up and we did that. It was a massive flip from an attacking point of view from last week but it was built upon the foundation that our defence and goalkeeper lays for us.”
McCann added: “Last week was good for us because it was a really quick turnaround to go in against a team that have been at the pinnacle.
“You can talk about their three-in-a-row but they've been at the pinnacle for 10 years, only for St Gall's, Cargin could have won 10 championships.
“We had to flip the script on our performance from last week to this week, and that was a lot of mental training to do that. Now we have another mental exercise ahead of us to get over the high of doing something that we haven't done in a long way.
“A lot of the Cargin boys were saying when you're exchanging handshakes, you need to go and do it now. While it's great and we got over the line against Cargin we've an even bigger line to get over in two weeks' time.”
While Creggan's second half performance caught the attention of everyone, their composure in the first half was equally impressive as they conceded two goals in the opening 20 minutes but never panicked.
“It was seven scores for seven scores at half-time and Cargin were very opportunistic with the goals that they got and they took them well, but even though they were scoring goals we were still responding and we knew we were still in the game.
“We also knew if we kept doing what we were doing in terms of our own game and eliminate the goal threat that we could just chip away at it. We scored 16 points. It was the polar opposite of what we did last week because we couldn't get the ball over the bar against St John's.
“We're just delighted that we made good, small decisions, which Cargin are very good at, that got us there in the end.”
In the throes of Sunday's second-half comeback, could McCann enjoy it?
“I think you always get a sense of something and the more we chipped away at that rock in the second half, the more you were enjoying it because you were seeing the fruits of your labour.
“The last point there I enjoyed that because I knew what it meant. There's no better feeling in sport than when everything going for you.”