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Seven up for the super St Gall's

By Conor McLoughlin

St Gall's 0-12 Erin's Own 0-11: St Gall's won a record-equalling seventh consecutive Antrim Senior Football Championship title with the narrowest of victories over Cargin.

The champions, who have now collected 12 of the last 13 Antrim titles, survived a major scare with the last action of the match when, leading by just a point, Conor Burke somehow denied Antrim and Cargin sharpshooter Tomas McCann when in on goal. Had McCann's goal hit the net, rather than Burke's outstretched arm, then Cargin would have won.

It was that close and an emotional St Gall's manager Carl McCabe couldn't hide his relief at the final whistle.

"I suppose in the end, the team with the best footballers closed the game out," said the Omagh native.

"We set ourselves well, albeit with a few very close shaves – I don't even know how that one was blocked at the end. If it was Conor Burke then fair play to him, that was exceptional to have that level of concentration at that stage of the game."

McCabe dedicated the win to Alfie Hannaway Snr, a St Gall's club stalwart and mentor to many of the players. Hannaway, whose son Alfie Jnr is also a key member of the squad, died suddenly last weekend.

"It was an exciting game for the neutral and to be honest, it's just overwhelming to get over the line," said McCabe.

"It was personally satisfying but emotional for the boys. They've been on this road for a decade and a half and Alfie Hannaway's stamp is all over that team – he coached them from Under-12 so I'm pleased for him, his family and the entire club."

It was tense throughout and little could separate the sides over 64 minutes of football. While Cargin never led, they were never more than two points behind their city rivals.

Conor McGourty was to the fore in the opening stages, scoring two points that were matched by Cargin's Kieran Close at the other end.

St Gall's seemed to open up a bit of daylight between the sides when McGourty stroked over the free and minutes later Kevin Niblock was on the end of a flowing move to put two points between the sides.

However, Cargin reasserted themselves late in the half with frees from Gerard O'Boyle and Tomas McCann.

It would have been harsh on St Gall's to go in level at the beak and right on the half time whistle Niall O'Neill wriggled along the endline and handpassed over the bar to give the champions a one-point half time lead.

Cargin came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half with a further Close free and then on 35 minutes the Toome lads were presented with a golden opportunity to move into the lead when Michael Magill sent the speedy Tomas McCann in on goal, and he was stopped illegally by Colm Brady.

Goalkeeper Jimmy McNabb trotted all the way forward to hit the penalty, but it was well saved by opposite number Chris Kerr.

This gave St Gall's a huge psychological boost and points from McGourty (two) and Sean Kelly (pictured) re-established their two-point advantage. With time running out Cargin came storming back with a free from Close and then a well taken point by Michael McCann levelled proceedings.

However, the 2010 All-Ireland club Champions took the sting out of any Cargin comeback and Aodhan Gallagher set up Terry O'Neill for the half forward to coolly finish.

Then Michael Pollock added another for St Gall's after twisting and turning past his marker Justin Crozier to give his side a two-point cushion as the game entered added time.

Kieran Close closed the gap to one after John Carron was fouled and then St Gall's substitute Kevin McGourty was given a straight red card for dissent.

There was still time for McCann's dramatic goal chance but it was saved by Burke and with that St Gall's had secured the Championship and an Ulster Championship quarter-final against the Donegal champions on November 3.

Scorers: St Gall's: C McGourty 0-5 (3f), K Niblock 0-3 (1f), N O'Neill 0-1, S Kelly 0-1, T O'Neill 0-1, M Pollock 0-1 Cargin: K Close 0-5 (4f), G O'Boyle 0-3 (1f), T McCann 0-1 (1f), M Magill 0-1, M McCann 0-1

St Gall's: C Kerr; C Burke, A McClean, C Brady; J McGreevy, S Kelly, R Wilson; A Healy, A Gallagher; T O'Neill, K Niblock, N O'Neill; C McGourty, M Pollock, K Stewart Subs: B Bradley for N O'Neill (42), S O'Hara for C McGourty 62, K McGourty for R Wilson 62, S McAreavey for K Stewart 64

Cargin: J McNabb; D McKeever, J Crozier, M Kane; J Laverty, K O'Boyle, R Devlin; P McCann, M McCann; K Close, T McCann, E McGrogan; T Scullion, G O'Boyle, M Magill Subs: G McCann for P McCann (30), J Carron for E McGrogan (44)

Referee: B Toland.

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