108 seconds that turned the monsoon in Cargin's favour as St Brigid's find themselves overwhelmed

Tomas McCann takes on Matthew Downey during Cargin's win over St Brigid's. Picture: Mark Marlow
Tomas McCann takes on Matthew Downey during Cargin's win over St Brigid's. Picture: Mark Marlow Tomas McCann takes on Matthew Downey during Cargin's win over St Brigid's. Picture: Mark Marlow

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC semi-final: Cargin 2-6 St Brigid’s 0-6

THERE are moments in big games that you can almost physically feel the momentum shifting.

For Cargin and St Brigid’s, it happened thirteen minutes into the second half in Dunsilly.

The Belfast men were leading by 0-6 to 0-3 and the steady rain of the first half had become a deluge that turned the pitch into a swimming pool.

It was getting hard to see how Cargin would break Paddy and John McGuckin’s side down, given how they were defending deep and defending well.

Then Matthew Downey carried the ball down the sideline and Paul McCann met him with the perfect shoulder, turfing him into the fence. Cargin worked the sideline ball to the other wing and James Laverty kicked a score met by a cheer that signified this game had just changed.

Even though the initial attack from the next kickout broke down, the holders’ gander was up. Tomás McCann charged in and dispossessed Ronan Boyle, with the ball falling for Conhuir Johnston to side-foot past Declan Heery.

St Brigid's felt that McCann's tackle was a foul, but had invited the bother upon themselves by playing back to an isolated player in the middle of his own goal in such conditions when they had men moving ahead of the ball.

There were 108 seconds between McCann’s tackle and Johnston’s goal, and in that time, Cargin took back a control of Antrim football that just looked to be slipping.

In their first attack, Ronan Devlin’s side held the ball for two minutes and 44 seconds before it was taken off them. That was the tone of a half in which they dominated the ball but had just four shots.

Tomás McCann was carrying them, the one man bringing the energy and verve to their attacking play that was troubling the underdogs.

St Brigid’s were like a swarm of young worker bees, defending with the same zest they brought to the counter-attack.

Jack Dowling was the only one old enough to have been on the bench for their last semi-final appearance in 2011, and he was running the game in such a manner here, dictating their play right up the middle.

Enda Downey was sharp and took home three points, and when younger brother Matthew landed a brilliant score to make it 0-5 to 0-3 in first-half stoppage time, you sensed this was going to the wire.

The conditions deteriorated to the point that the game became almost unplayable. Thankfully nobody got hurt in a second half where it was impossible to tell what was a foul and what wasn’t.

Too much was let go given the state the pitch was now in. Both sides got on with it and played without malice. All of that combined became a massive advantage to Cargin once they got into that 1-4 to 0-6 lead midway through the second period.

From there, they exuded complete control. You had to admire their physicality and their ball-handling. On a day ripened for mistakes, they made so few of them in the last 15 minutes that they snuffed St Brigid’s championship flame out with actually a degree of comfort in the end.

The cushioning came from the hand of one of Cargin’s freshest evergreens and a far more regular scorer of big scores than his positioning ought to allow, Kevin O’Boyle.

He drifted to full-forward and leapt above Declan Heery to get a fist to the dropping shot from the boot of John Carron, whose desire to get on the ball throughout his 20 minutes on the field was central to their win as well.

The winners were able to bring Michael McCann on for his first outing of the season, though they’ll be worried that it was for Pat Shivers, who took a dead leg moments before kicking a point that was his last act after 13 minutes.

From three down after 43 minutes, Cargin were 2-6 to 0-6 by the 50th minute. That was how it finished, a cruel summation of the game offered by Jack Dowling’s late fisted effort that was destined for the net until it splashed in a puddle and died on the line.

Michael McCann found himself standing over it and in the split-second he had to make a decision, withdrew his hands to avoid giving away a penalty for touching it on the ground.

To make a final with a Dunloy team that showed on Friday night they had the pace and their experience of winning on dual stages, Cargin thought their way through with serious composure and fought their way with real power.

St Brigid’s are getting there, but this showed they’ve a bit to go yet.


Cargin: J McNabb; K O’Boyle (1-0), R Gribbin, S O’Neill; J Crozier, J Laverty (0-1), P McCann; K McShane, G McCann; D Johnston, C Johnston (1-0), E Quinn; P Shivers (0-1), T McCann (0-3, 0-1 free), J Gribbin

Subs: M McCann (0-1) for P Shivers (13), B Kelly for D Johnston (35), J Carron for G McCann (50), C Donnelly for S O’Neill (57), C Johnston for R Gribbin (58)

Blood sub: T Shivers for E Quinn (HT)

St Brigid’s: D Heery; F McKernan, J Finnegan, P King; R Carleton, J Morgan (0-1), R Boyle; F Meenagh, J Dowling (0-1); S Downey, O Downey, J Smith; E Downey (0-3, 0-1 free), M Downey (0-1), P Bradley

Subs: N Duffy for Meenagh (52), C McNicholl for Bradley (57)

Blood sub: B Doherty for Heery (10-22), E Carleton for F McKernan (12-30)

Referee: C Roberts (St John’s)