Cargin's defensive composure sees them advance to semi-finals

Cargin's John McCarron rises for a ball during last night's quarter-final encounter with Lamh Dhearg Picture: Hugh Russell
Cargin's John McCarron rises for a ball during last night's quarter-final encounter with Lamh Dhearg Picture: Hugh Russell Cargin's John McCarron rises for a ball during last night's quarter-final encounter with Lamh Dhearg Picture: Hugh Russell

Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Erin’s Own, Cargin 0-13 Lamh Dhearg 0-9

CARGIN were workmanlike as they negotiated their semi-final berth with impressive composure against Lamh Dhearg at Dunsilly last night.

Defensively sound and with Pat Shivers showing brilliant form in the Erin’s Own attack, Lamh Dhearg never truly threatened the 2020 champions.

Shivers, Jamie Gribben and Mick McCann were among the scorers – and were all architects of this quarter-final victory.

Lamh Dhearg’s problem throughout was their constant struggle in trying to get their key players on the ball. The Cargin defence did a smashing job in tying up Conor and Ryan Murray, particularly in the second half.

Even in the closing stages, Lamh Dhearg couldn’t find any holes in the Cargin back-line to cause them stress.

Cargin had the upper hand in the opening exchanges with the in-form Shivers opening his side’s account after just a few seconds.

With the next 10 minutes remaining scoreless, it took Cargin ‘keeper John McNabb to steal forward and plant the ball between Lamh Dhearg’s posts.

The Hannahstown men, who held ex-county star Paddy Cunningham in reserve in last night’s last eight clash, finally got off the mark in the 13th minute through Ryan Murray who earlier dropped a couple of frees short and put another effort wide.

But if Lamh Dhearg were going to win this clash Murray would have to be central. Before the first period had elapsed the county ace grabbed three scores from play to keep them on Cargin’s coat tails. It was an impressive feat he wasn’t allowed to repeat in the second half.

In a highly competitive opening half, there just seemed to be more fluidity about how Cargin worked the ball from back to front. Brothers Mick McCann and Tomas McCann took turns at full-forward and half-forward and always posed a threat.

Tomas was the first man to set his sights on raising a green flag but ‘keeper John Finucane made a smart save in the 14th minute. Finucane would deny McCann again in the second period.

Throughout last night’s quarter-final Lamh Dhearg couldn’t get to grips with the roving Shivers.

In the 26th minute, the languid attacker cut in from the left flank and off-loaded to Paul McCann and with the goal at his mercy Cargin’s number 11 somehow allowed a Lamh Dhearg defender to get back and deflect the ball wide.

Although McNabb stepped up to confidently convert the resultant ’45 to put Cargin 0-7 to 0-4 ahead, the gap should have been greater.

Declan Smyth and Declan Lynch really forced the issue by breaking forward from Lamh Dhearg’s half-back line.

Ben Rice landed a brilliant point from distance and Declan Smyth, who always seemed to have acres of space down the right side, added another in the 27th minute to narrow Cargin’s lead to two points [0-7 to 0-5].

Shivers, though, struck another beauty for Cargin seconds later before Lamh Dhearg captain Terry McCrudden equalled it with a point from an outrageous angle.

Although they left the Dunsilly field at half-time with a 0-8 to 0-6 lead, Ronan Devlin’s men must have rued the fact they didn’t convert one of their two gilt-edged goal chances.

With greater purpose and sharpness to their play after the restart, the speedy Owen McKeown pointed for Lamh Dhearg to briefly make it a one-point game after a brilliant kick pass from Carl Maxwell. But that was as good as it got for the Hannahstown men.

But, like all good teams do, Cargin responded.

Wing-forward Ciaran Bradley, who had a subdued opening half, made a fantastic run down the right flank with Ben Rice forced to haul the Erin’s Own attacker down.

Shivers duly popped the free over from a comfortable distance before Tomas McCann found Mick McCann with a classy kick pass and the elder brother put Cargin three in front on 41 minutes.

Cargin were in the box seat.

With 10 minutes remaining and still holding onto a three-point lead, Finucane denied Tomas McCann from close range that probably would have put the game beyond the 2017 champions at that stage. Seconds later, Jamie Gribben raced clear to nab his second of the night.

Paddy Cunningham was thrust from the bench by boss Decky Bunting as Lamh Dhearg chased the game in the final throes.

And it was the former Antrim ace who converted a placed ball with seven minutes of normal time remaining that stirred the Hannahstown men.

But every time Lamh Dhearg moved the scoreboard, Cargin replied. Shivers again.

The Toome men were then reduced to 14 men after Gerard McCann picked up a black card, but their opponents couldn’t make their numerical advantage count in that nervy 10-minute period.

The most pleasing aspect for Cargin boss Ronan Devlin was just how solid they were at the back. Sean O'Neill, Justin Crozier and Kevin O'Boyle all doing well.

Cargin are looking good again.

Erin’s Own, Cargin: J McNabb (0-2, 0-1 ’45); K O’Boyle, J Crozier (0-1), C Donnelly (0-1); J Laverty, S O’Neill, R Gribben; M McCann (0-1), G McCann; C Bradley, P McCann, J Carron (0-1); P Shivers (0-4, 0-1 free), T McCann, J Gribben (0-2) Subs: B Kelly (0-1) for R Gribben (37), C Close for T McCann (57), K McShane for C Donnelly (59), D Johnston for J Gribben (57)

Yellow cards: J Laverty (30)

Black card: G McCann (48-58)

Lamh Dhearg: J Finucane; F Mervyn, M McGarry, M Hynes; D Smyth (0-1), D Lynch, B Rice (0-1); P Mervyn, M Jordan; C Maxwell, O McKeown (0-1), R Murray (0-3); C Murray, T McCrudden (0-1), K Quinn Subs: S McManus for B Rice (42), D Dunne for Quinn (47), P Cunningham (0-2, 0-1 free) for T McCrudden (49), A Byrne for C Maxwell (55), M Herron for M Hynes (64)

Yellow cards: C Murray (30), B Rice (37)

Referee: M O’Neill