By Niall Gartland
CARGIN have a chance to avenge last year’s championship defeat to Creggan when they lock swords in another semi-final clash this weekend, and their manager Ronan Devlin is determined that they give a much better account of themselves on this occasion.
The Erin’s Own men lost their stranglehold on the Antrim Senior Championship in fairly underwhelming fashion but the fact remains that they’ve won five of the last seven titles and will be hell-bent on reasserting their authority as the supreme club team on the football scene in the county.
They qualified for the semi-finals with a convincing win over Lamh Dhearg in the last eight and now they’re bidding to topple reigning champions Creggan in a possible role-reversal of last year.
The players will no doubt be licking their lips at the prospect of getting the better of their near neighbours, but their manager Ronan Devlin says they must focus on producing their best on the day.
The Ballinderry native said: “To me it doesn’t matter who beats you, but Creggan is a bordering club and they’re living in the pockets of the Cargin lads, so last year definitely hurt.
“But what stung me more was the manner we lost the game. We were four points up at half-time, only scored two points in the second-half and they won by three. We went out with a whimper and that’s what disappoints me. Cargin were going for four championships in-a-row and they had to lose at some stage but it was still disappointing.”
Devlin was assistant manager for four years under Derry legend Damian Cassidy before assuming the main position this season. He’s done well thus far and says he learnt plenty from Cassidy, an intense, respected figure who also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game.
“I was there the whole time with Damian, this is my fifth year of involvement with Cargin.
“Damian rang me back at the beginning to ask if I was interested, I hadn’t met him but I agreed to go in with him and we’d a good run at it. Last year didn’t go to plan but we’ll see how this year goes.
“I still talk to him back and forth. I tell you what, he’s a very intelligent man and very driven and I learnt a bagful from him, I’d have been foolish not to. He thinks about football all the time and rang me about things going through his head, talking things through with me. He was no autocrat.”
Cargin only had to play two games in the group stages but things really kicked into gear with their quarter-final win over Lamh Dhearg. They have some older heads who need little introduction while talented young players like Pat Shivers are also making a serious impact.
Devlin, who lives on the ‘Tyrone side’ of Ballinderry, isn’t entirely convinced by the group stage format in Antrim.
“We’d two group stage games and won the first and that was enough to get us to the quarters, they barely even felt like championship matches. We lost our second game to Rossa which was probably a bit of a shock, but while we wanted to win, we didn’t need to. They needed to win and fair play to them for doing so.
“Then we’d Lamh Dhearg and we were happy with that performance, we were worried about them because they’re a dangerous team, but we handled them well and kept them to fewer than ten points which was pleasing.”