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Cunningham writes another chapter in his career

 

Shooting star: UGAAWA September Merit Award winner Paddy Cunningham of Lamh Dhearg with wife Claire and family Avien, Padráig and Aoife
Shooting star: UGAAWA September Merit Award winner Paddy Cunningham of Lamh Dhearg with wife Claire and family Avien, Padráig and Aoife
James Laverty
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Former Antrim captain Paddy Cunningham is still doing the business at club level with Lamh Dhearg.

A decade has elapsed since Cunningham led the Saffrons out in the provincial decider against Tyrone only to see his side suffer a defeat before turning in a commendable performance in exiting the All-Ireland qualifiers to Kerry.

Over the course of recent weeks, Cunningham has been in explosive form with his club side, scoring 3-39 in four outings in the Antrim championship in September alone.

It was a feat that has earned him the latest Quinn Building Supplies Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit award, his scoring achievement having elevated him up among the top club marksmen in the country.

The fact that Lamh Dhearg have since lost the Antrim final replay to Cargin is a source of disappointment to Cunningham but the Writers' award presents him with a small degree of consolation.

"It does help a little to sooth the pain of defeat in the final," said the 34-year-old St Mary's CBGS teacher.

"We were very disappointed to lose to Cargin at the end of the day."

Lamh Dhearg may have bowed the knee to Cargin but the club showed huge staying power over the course of the Antrim Championship and Cunningham feels this augers well for the future.

"We have a lot of quality players in our side but we were just unable to go the extra mile last weekend and we were forced to pay the penalty," he added.

"Still, we can focus on next year. I think we showed that there is great talent within the side but you would have to say that Cargin's experience and craft helped to get them over the line."

Meanwhile, long-serving defender James Laverty laughs at the notion that Cargin, who face Derrygonnelly in the Ulster Club Football Championship on Sunday at Corrigan Park, are, if anything, weighed down by experience.

The newly-crowned Antrim champions are certainly a seasoned outfit with two of the McCann brothers Michael and Tomás, Michael Magill, Justin Crozier, John Carron, Tony Scullion, Kevin O'Boyle and Laverty himself having long since earned their spurs with the county team.

But Laverty pinpoints what he feels is an exciting development within the side which could influence their performance against Derrygonnelly.

"I know people think we are an ageing side but look at young Patrick Shivers, for instance" pointed out Laverty.

"He won an Antrim minor championship medal the week-end before last and then he turned out with the Cargin senior championship in last Sunday's final replay against Lamh Dhearg and played very well."

"He is one of several young players in the side who is showing great potential.

"It is people like Patrick who are helping to keep the rest of us on our toes in training and I think this is a great source of satisfaction to our manager, Damian Cassidy."

Shivers, of course, is in the frame for a starting place against Derrygonnelly, a match which Laverty feels will be a "severe test" for a Cargin side that had to face two difficult games against Lamh Dhearg before they took possession of the county championship trophy.

They may have won four Antrim titles in the last five years but Laverty feels the team has not done itself justice in the Ulster Club championship during the same period.

"We have not really performed to the standard we are capable of in the Ulster Club championship in the recent past, to be honest," he admitted.

"Last year, we came up against a very strong Gaoth Dobhair team and, while we showed well in the first-half, we fell away after that.

"When you get to this level you have to keep going for the entire game because you are facing better quality sides. But I think the appetite is there on the part of our players.

"After the frustration we endured last year, we have been itching to get back to prove a point."

While Laverty believes that Cargin can bring their experience into play, he is equally confident that Jamie Gribben, Ciaran Bradley and Michael Clarke as well as the exciting Shivers are young guns who are ready to fire out a message for the future on the provincial stage.

"These are good players who don't look out of place in our team and I think they can thrive in the Ulster club series," he said.

"This is a big game for us against Derrygonnelly on Sunday.

"They have won five Fermanagh titles on the bounce and will feel they can transfer their good form onto the Ulster stage."

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