Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Cargin ready to be the bride

By Declan Bogue

Antrim captain Kevin O'Boyle is not depending on the possible suspension of St Gall's duo Kieran McGourty and Sean Burke to derail the Milltown team's bid for seven consecutive county titles this weekend.

The duo were sent off last weekend in their bid to retain the Kilmacud Sevens All-Ireland tournament, against Corofin in the final which they ultimately lost.

An appeal has been launched in the meantime, with Gall's manager Carl McCabe holding out hope that two of his most experienced and important players will be able to line out.

"I don't think it makes a tap of difference," says O'Boyle.

"To be honest, as a Cargin player and speaking on behalf of the panel and the management team, we are just fully focused on playing St Gall's.

"We would prefer to play them with their full selection. They are a team we hold in the highest regard and have the highest of respect for because I think it's 11 of the last 12 they have won and you can't take that away from them."

Cargin's problems may rest in the six inches between their ears as they face familiar foes on the showpiece day. Down through the years they have always been able to trip up St Gall's from time to time, most especially in the league but also in the group stages of the Championship, but ultimately it is the St Gall's players who have the silverware.

"On paper, we feel we can match them, but this past number of years we have continually underachieved in Championship football and we feel we haven't fulfilled our potential against them," O'Boyle continues.

"We are underdogs, but if we can fulfil our potential then I have no doubt we can come out as winners."

One reason for his bubbling confidence is the frame of mind the panel are in under the new management of Eamonn McCann, Ciaran O'Neill and Martin Logan.

"They have targeted certain areas. If you watch us play you would see us improve in certain areas and it's something Cargin hasn't done in previous years – play as a team," O'Boyle explains: "We had fantastic individuals but the three boys have really gelled us together as a team this year. We are going to have to play as a whole unit if we are to counteract St Gall's. The way they play, even the experience of playing the Sevens football, they are going to be bringing that into the Championship final on Saturday and we are going to have to have the team to counteract it, rather than a bunch of individuals."

Not to go into the specifics of the case, but the fact that Cargin have had exiled Antrim stars Tony Scullion, Mick and Tomás McCann at club training sessions since the middle of April has also led to an improvement in the quality of Cargin's training, as the teacher in Holy Trinity Cookstown explains.

"Whenever the county players are not there, the club are down numbers for training. This year the simple fact is they were training with the club setting the example for the rest of the lads and when we slotted back the training had been strengthened."

It has stood them in good stead in the league where they sit two points off the top, with two games in hand over Lamh Dhearg. Their scoring averages have also been impressive, but an anomaly appeared in the semi-final against Creggan.

In a tense, close county semi-final, the Erin's Own side won out on the baffling scoreline of 0-5 to 0-2.

While they will be concerned at their poor conversion of shots in that encounter, they can be delighted with their defence that kept the Kickhams attack scoreless in the second half. O'Boyle's deployment of sweeper is crucial to their strategy.

There will also be an outlier that could throw St Gall's. With Casement Park unavailable, it will be the first county final played out of headquarters in many years, with Ahoghill hosting the day. Without a stand, spectators will be close to the action, forming a ring around the perimeter fence. It all adds to the exhilaration of final day, according to O'Boyle.

"It will be different because the crowd will be hanging over you, over the wire and it will be like a cauldron. Sometimes that's not a bad thing in club Championship day."

On the venue switch to Ahoghill, he adds: "The work they have done over this past weeks and months, the stewarding, car-parking, the way they have conducted themselves, I think they deserve it. And at the end of the day it's only a pitch. It's nice playing in the big venues and taking it all in, but at the end of the day it is only a pitch."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph