The buzz has picked up says Cargin boss

By Kieran Lynch

WE have reached the business end of the football calendar in Antrim, as the Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship begins this weekend.

As has been the case in six of the last eight years, Erin’s Own Cargin are reigning champions, and their manager Ronan Devlin says that he has seen his side lift their game and their moods in training with the serious stuff on the horizon.

“The buzz definitely picks up at this time of year,” he said.

“Sometimes for a team who has aspirations of winning a championship, it can be very hard to stay motivated the whole way through the league campaign.

“People use the word ‘flat’ a lot, and there were definitely some weeks there where we were a bit flat. But at the same time, I have to sympathise with the lads, because the league for us was basically preparation for a competition that wasn’t starting for another three or four months.

“So, the buzz is definitely starting to pick up, and we’re out a couple of times this week, and I’m expecting to see a nice bit of sharpness and bite to the training sessions, because the first round of the championship is coming up.”

Although championship football is always the priority, the league is an opportunity to set a marker and unearth some new faces.

Cargin finished second in Division 1A, but Devlin wouldn’t read too much into the league, as he was forced into rotating his side quite a bit due to long-term injuries to players such as Tomás and Mick McCann, Jamie Gribben, Sean O’Neill.

“We used the league to blood a lot of young players,” said Devlin.

“The league was never the priority, and at times it was just a case of fulfilling fixtures.

“But sometimes you don’t get chances to look at new players, if everybody is available.

“We got to blood in some new faces like Eunan Quinn, Conhuir Johnston and Tom Shivers, and it was good to get these boys exposure and have them starting games. We also used the league to try out some of the older heads in new positions.

“So, although we had to rotate the team quite a bit throughout the league, it could possibly be a long-term blessing.”

When asked about those injuries, Devlin admitted that his side are coming into their Championship opener a little bit undercooked, but due to the group stage structure, it’s not do-or-die.

“I wouldn’t say that they’re 100 per cent cleared up,” he said.

“We still have a wee while to go before everybody is back fit. The first game is still very important to us, and we could do with getting off to a winning start, but at the same time, if you lose, you’re not knocked out.

“You would hate to be knocked out, knowing that you have men to come back.”

Up first is an away trip to O’Donovan Rossa, and Devlin is under no illusions of the challenge ahead.

“It absolutely is,” said Devlin, when asked about it being a tricky opener.

“In the last game of our group stage last year we played away against Rossa, and they nipped us up there – and that’s where this game is going to be at too.

“So, obviously they have won the most recent championship meeting between the two sides. They have quality throughout the team, and they have plenty for my boys to be worried about.”

O’Donovan Rossa are sure to have a great crowd behind them, as they look to take a scalp by beating the champions.

But the idea of having a target on their backs is nothing new to Cargin – they put it there themselves according to Devlin.

“We don’t really go into games feeling as though we’re a target,” he said.

“I would presume that teams do target us, but I don’t really feel that, because I think that we put enough pressure on ourselves, to worry about whatever another team is thinking about us.

“Cargin have won six out of the last eight championships, so you probably put your own target on your back with that sort of record.

“But with that, there is a motivation there to keep going and see how many you can get.”

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