Scullion out to crown his big Cargin milestone with title joy
Tony Scullion has an extra-special reason for hoping that Cargin come good in tomorrow's Antrim Senior Football Championship final against Lamh Dhearg at Corrigan Park, Belfast (3.30pm).
This is Scullion's 20th season wearing his club colours and he views what would be a sixth Championship medal as the best way in which to celebrate this playing career landmark.
The busy construction company boss, who called time on his inter-county career some years ago, is still displaying the same levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the cause that he revealed when he took his first faltering steps in the Cargin side all those years ago.
Cargin have taken delivery of three of the last four Antrim titles but before that have to go back to 2006 for their previous acquaintance with the title.
If anything, Scullion is enjoying his football even more now because of the manner in which he feels the game has evolved.
"It is more open, more attack-minded and this helps to keep defenders like myself on our toes," stated Scullion.
"It's faster and more intense, just the way I like it if I'm being honest. I know it will be like that against Lamh Dhearg because they play an open, attractive style of football and we are aware that they will come at us from the start so we have to be ready for them."
Scullion's all-action style not only sees him cast in the role of a no-nonsense defender but also as a robust counter-attacking player who is well capable of poaching the odd score.
But with the long-serving McCann brothers Michael and Tomas, Michael Magill and Ciaran Bradley currently prominent in their attack, Cargin are not short on scorers just as they are well served in midfield where John Carron is a big presence while Justin Crozier is a pillar of their defence.
"While we have faith in our own ability, we know that Lamh Dhearg are not short on quality. They have good players in key positions, they won the title a couple of years ago and they will be keen to grab another one," stressed Scullion.
His lengthy tenure in the side owes much to his self-discipline and fierce commitment to training and preparation.
"The whole thing is in being able to enjoy your football. We do not get too hung up on convoluted tactics, rather we play to the level of our ability and so far this has served us quite well," insisted Scullion.
Should Cargin triumph tomorrow, this would offer them another opportunity to carve their name in lights on the Ulster Club Championship stage but Scullion preaches caution in this respect.
While Cargin have shown admirable consistency in their own county, the provincial stage has invariably proved a stiff test for the side.
"Let's just take things one step at a time. Lamh Dhearg are the only team on our radar at the moment. We have great respect for them and we know we are in for a hard battle no matter how you look at it," added Scullion.
In an era when players are drifting away from club and county teams, Scullion epitomises loyalty and self-sacrifice. But he is quick to emphasise the contribution that other long-serving Cargin players have made to the team's progress.
"There are a number of players within the side who have been giving their all over several years now and without this kind of commitment we would not have won any honours," pointed out Scullion.
"Players obviously have interests outside their clubs but they are always prepared to knuckle down and do what has to be done to bring success. Antrim may not be the most successful county but this does not mean that players are any less devoted to the sport."
Meanwhile, in the Monaghan Senior Football Championship semi-finals, Ballybay will meet Scotstown today at Clontibret (4.30pm) while tomorrow Latton take on Clontibret (2pm).
Scotstown have been the kingpins in Monaghan recently and they still have a solid core of experience with players such as Rory Beggan, Kieran Hughes, Shane Carey and Conor McCarthy to call upon.
Veteran Paul Finlay is still doing the business for Ballybay alongside the Wylie brothers Drew, Ryan and Brent.
The meeting of Latton and Clontibret will also see some of Monaghan's premier players in action. Conor McManus, Conor Boyle, Vinny Corey and Dessie Mone will bring a wealth of experience to the table for Clontibret, while the Duffy duo Kieran and Owen will spearhead Latton's drive to make it into what would be a rare final appearance.