GAA Football

We needed to set our goals higher: Cargin boss Ronan Devlin

Cargin manager Ronan Devlin
Brendan Crossan

CARGIN boss Ronan Devlin urged his players at the beginning of the season to think bigger than simply targeting one game in Ulster.

Cargin, who’ve been crowned Antrim champions four times out of the last five years, finally made the provincial breakthrough by seeing off Naomh Conaill of Donegal on penalties at Corrigan Park last weekend.

Cargin ‘keeper John McNabb saved Ciaran Thompson and Dermot Molloy’s spot-kicks while Erin’s Own quartet Michael and Tomas McCann, Pat Shivers and Cahir Donnelly struck flawless penalties.

It’s Cargin’s first Ulster championship win since 1999 having fallen at the first hurdle in 2006, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

“Psychologically, if you just aim for a county title I think you can be a bit deflated going into Ulster,” said Devlin, who is in his first season as manager having assisted Damian Cassidy.

“I told the players at the start of the year you have to think bigger because they’ve won a number of county titles now and don’t make your target one game in Ulster. You have to see how far you can go.

“The two previous times I’ve been involved in Ulster campaigns with Cargin, we were beaten by half-time [Gweedore and Derrygonnelly].

Cargin will face Derry’s back-to-back champions Glen in an intriguing provincial semi-final in 12 days’ time following the Maghera men’s four-point win over Tyrone champions Errigal Ciaran.

Devlin was niggled by some “silly mistakes” during Sunday’s epic encounter and also paid tribute to some of the younger members of the squad.

“I felt we were the better team and I was actually cursing the silly mistakes we were making,” said the Ballinderry man.

“We were giving them a life-line as they’ve too much quality to be giving them the ball handy. And, to be fair, at times it was our experienced men giving it away.

“But overall I actually thought we played really well and we did play some smart football at times. And some of the young fellas we excellent… Young Eunan Quinn hit an unbelievable point.”

John McNabb, one of many Cargin heroes on an unforgettable day for the club, was thankful the squad had more time to prepare for Ulster this year.

“I think the last time we went into Ulster [2019] we had six days’ preparation,” said the Cargin goalkeeper.

“This year we had five weeks where we did a lot of hard yards, we did a lot of work on the Naomh Conaill side. When you get that much time to prepare for a game you should be staying tight to a team.

“A lot of people wrote us off coming up to the Naomh Conaill game and I actually enjoyed reading it that Glenties were going into the next round – that was a motivation and it takes a wee bit of pressure off as well because some people thought we were going out to get a drubbing by nine or 10 points but we stayed in the game and they were only three points ahead with the wind at half-time, I’m sure they felt a bit of pressure.

“We knew in extra-time we’d have the legs and that we could drive on and win the game.”

Some of the older heads helped guide the Cargin through difficult moments of last Sunday’s quarter-final. Tomas, Michael and Gerard McCann played leading roles as did Justin Crozier, Kevin O’Boyle and James Laverty, while the evergreen Kieran Close hit 1-1 when thrust from the bench towards the end of normal time.

“Our older players are still doing it,” McNabb said.

“I remember playing senior when I was 17 or 18 and we were losing championships; those boys could have stepped away at any time because they weren’t winning but they hung on in there and they’re now winning championships and big games, and it’s good they are still there because the younger players look up to them, as I did when I was coming through.”

GAA Football