By Niall Gartland
AGHAGALLON boss Audi Kelly has tagged Sunday’s Senior Championship final against Antrim powerhouses Cargin as a David v Goliath contest – but he hopes last year’s experience of making the final will stand to his team.
The St Mary’s club reached the senior final for the first time in their history, and while they were a distinct second-best against Creggan, they’ve dusted themselves and hopefully they’ll be all the better for the experience.
They’ve shown plenty of mettle en route to the final – a borderline miraculous comeback against Portglenone in the semi-final was truly something extraordinary – but they’ll need to up it another gear against a Cargin side who seem determined to regain their crown.
Kelly, who led Tyrone side Moy to the All-Ireland Intermediate title in 2018, said: “This is the second time this group of players made it to the last four in Antrim, let alone the final, so everything’s relatively new to us in that respect.
“But hopefully last year’s experience will be an advantage – they know what’s ahead of them and they’ll be better prepared in that respect.”
On Cargin, the vastly experienced manager said: “We’re under no illusions, they’ve won five of the last seven titles. They’ve been the kingpins of Antrim football, they’re an exceptional side with quality laced throughout their team. It’s really a David v Goliath contest.”
Kelly, who first became properly aware of Aghagallon when managing nearby Lurgan-based club Clann Éireann, is conscious that character alone won’t win them a historic Senior Championship title.
In the semi-final, Ruairi McCann’s late goal helped Agagallon recover a five-point deficit to force extra-time against Portglenone, while a sucker-punch goal from Adam Loughran won the game at the very end of extra-time.
Kelly said: “To be honest we weren’t at all happy with our performance, we didn’t play the football that we’re capable of. But the big thing we took our of the game was, whilst we weren’t playing well, the lads didn’t give up and showed great character in normal and extra-time. Whenever their backs were against the wall, they produced the goods and we got ourselves a result.”
“It was the same last year against Portglenone in the semi-final, we had to come back a number of times. There’s great character in the lads.”
It’s a once in a generation crop of players at the club so Kelly also says it’s crucial that they strike while the iron is hot.
“It’s the type of group that comes through once in a blue moon, so it’s about maximising that opportunity. There’s a group of talented young players allied with the senior players, so there’s a nice blend of youth and experience in the team.”