Dunloy, Ballymena

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McCann Seals Thrilling Draw


John Carron attempts to round the excellent Declan Dunne.

Erin's Own Cargin 1-10

Lámh Dhearg 0-13


Breathless. Pulsating. Absorbing. Level.


As Tomás McCann's 63rd-minute free sailed between the uprights, his was the first roar to pierce the hush that had descended on Corrigan Park. He was soon joined by hordes of Cargin faithful who celebrated a draw that had looked unlikely for much of the afternoon.


Lámh Dhearg had stifled the champions' challenge during an opening 25 minutes in which they had opened up a 6-point lead over their opponents. Tactically they were on the mark, with a high press both engaging Cargin and making it difficult for them to play.


The Lámhs continued their relentless pressure in the second period but gradually Cargin began to find ways around the press and despite Ben Rice's brilliance around the break, Erin's Own chipped away at the lead.


Michael McCann's goal swung momentum their way, Paul weighed in with two points and Tomás' last-gasp intervention was the clinching score that earned them another chance next weekend.


McCann had also registered the opening score from a similar position, slotting over a free after two minutes, but opposite number Paddy Cunningham erased the lead with a booming free from 50 yards just two minutes later.


Ten frantic minutes of action followed with both sides guilty of missed chances before Declan Dunne's 45 sent Lámh Dhearg into the lead - a lead doubled immediately afterwards when Ben Rice swung over his first of the afternoon.


Cargin's kick outs were being suffocated by the work-rate and anticipation of the Hannahstown midfield and the Erin's Own frustration rendered a scoreable Cunningham free unmissable when it was moved forward for dissent in the 17th minute.

Tomás McCann gets Cargin moving from a sideline.

In an effort to force an outlet for the ball, Cargin 'keeper John McNabb was beginning to carry the ball out, but invoked panic on 20 minutes when possession was lost and Conor Murray split the posts from 50 yards out with McNabb scrambling back towards goal to extend the Lámh Dhearg lead to four.


Cunningham added a further free before Damian Cassidy rolled the dice with a double change, Enda McGrogan and Gerard McCann introduced in place of Tony Scullion and John Carron, and the changes paid immediate dividends as Tomás McCann popped over Cargin's first score in 24 minutes.


Lámh Dhearg responded with another Cunningham free but Cargin finished the half strongly, substitute Enda McGrogan finding Mícheál Magill through on goal. John Finucane produced an outstanding save however, a strong hand turning Magill's effort over the crossbar to leave four between them at the break.


It took seven minutes for either side to raise a white flag in the second period, Cunningham extending the Lámh Dhearg lead with an acute free on the right flank. Cargin now appeared more disciplined in the tackle and forced their opponents to play patiently around the fringes.


Another Tomás McCann free punished a foul on James Laverty, but the energetic Ben Rice then claimed a Cargin kick out and kept his composure, dancing through to swing over his second score.


The 2017 champions were then dealt a blow when they lost Terry McCrudden to a black card on 44 minutes and Cargin almost took maximum advantage, John Finucane having to stretch an arm to a crossed fist-pass to usher the ball away from the waiting Jamie Gribben at his back post.


Gerard McCann picked up the resulting break to reduce the arrears to four, before Paul and Michael weaved the magic that proved to be the game's turning point.


Collecting the ball in the half-forward line, Paul McCann took off on a slaloming run towards the Lámh Dhearg goal. He patiently held the ball and released the perfect pass into the run of Michael McCann, who took a quick glance at the whites of the Lord Mayor's eyes before rattling the ball into the top corner.

Oran McAuley Insurance Man of the Match - Ben Rice of Lámh Dhearg.

Ben Rice provided Lámh Dhearg with the perfect response, mirroring McCann's composure to tap over up the other end and when Eoin McKeown shrugged off Justin Crozier to curl over in the 53rd minute, it looked like the Hannahstown men had weathered the storm.


Paul McCann ended another winding run by slotting a fine point to reduce the gap to two again, but Marc Jordan responded with customary calmness, racing straight through the middle of the Cargin defence to blast over the bar and restore a three-point lead.


The final few minutes however belonged to the McCanns. Points from Paul and Michael, the latter throwing a dummy before curling over from an impossible angle, left the minimum between them before Lámh Dhearg had a chance to end the contest.


Marc Jordan again cut Cargin open and found Eoin McKeown, but after his low effort was superbly saved by John McNabb, referee Sean Laverty called play back for a foul on Jordan and Cunningham tapped over to give Lámh Dhearg breathing space.


As the Hannahstown side attempted to see out their advantage, Tomás McCann pounced on a loose pass and wasted little time in swinging the ball between the posts with the game entering stoppage time.


When Cargin were awarded a free in the dying seconds, McCann stepped up to take it. With a few misses in the game, there were a few nervous murmurs around Corrigan Park, but McCann is a big-moment player and duly nailed the free to ensure we are treated to another titanic tussle between these Antrim football heavyweights.


It'll be a sixth championship match for Lámh Dhearg and their third inside fourteen days after their epic battle with Portglenone but their match sharpness and tactical acumen was clear this afternoon.


Cargin will feel they have greater scope for improvement on today's performance.


In midweek, Damian Cassidy extolled the virtues of getting extra games in a championship run.


Now he's got one. We go again next Saturday.

Erin's Own: John McNabb, Donagh McKeever, Martin Kane, Kevin O'Boyle, Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier, James Laverty, David Johnston, John Carron, Paul McCann (0-02), Michael McCann (1-01), Ciaran Bradley, Tomás McCann (0-02, 0-03f), Mícheál Magill (0-01), Jamie Gribben.


Subs: Gerard McCann (0-01) for John Carron 25', Enda McGrogan for Tony Scullion 26', Kevin McShane for David Johnston 43', Kieran Close for Enda McGrogan 54', Gerard McCorley for Martin Kane 58'.


Lámh Dhearg: John Finucane, Chris Nolan, Paddy Mervyn, Marc McGarry, Declan Lynch, Michael Herron, Ben Rice (0-03), Declan Dunne (0-01 - 45), Kevin Quinn, Eoin McKeown (0-01), Conor Murray (0-01), Marc Jordan (0-01), Paddy Cunningham (0-06f), Terry McCrudden, Ryan Murray.


Subs: Ryan Stranney for Terry McCrudden 46' (Black Card), Conor McIlvenny for Christopher Nolan 46', Mark Finnegan for Ryan Murray 61'.


Referee: Sean Laverty - St Ergnat's Moneyglass


Man of the Match: Ben Rice - Lámh Dhearg


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