By Michael McMullan
CARGIN are bidding for a seventh title in nine seasons when they face Dunloy on Sunday (Corrigan Park, 2.30pm).
Manager Ronan Devlin, in his sixth year having served under previous boss Damian Cassidy, feels the mood is as good, if not better, than any of the finals he has experienced.
Devlin puts the mood down to the “real self-belief” in the camp that has grown from their run of success.
“I think they really believe they belong where they are at,” Devlin said. “It is a real self-belief where they expect to be in county finals.”
Cargin found themselves in a tight spot in their semi-final win over St Brigid’s before goals paved their way to victory.
Devlin recalls a conversation with defender James Laverty who admits to always feeling Cargin had the game under control.
“It is from being there before and we took a real confidence from last year,” added Devlin, casting his mind back to their dramatic county final win over Aghagallon last season.
While having a mountain to climb after finding themselves eight points adrift with 20 minutes to play, they found a way – as they usually do.
“For the most part, for about 45 minutes of that match, I thought we were the better team but we kept conceding bad goals,” Devlin recalls of how Cargin “played their way” back on the way to the title.
There is comfort of knowing the ability is there and it’s matched with the calmness to still dig themselves out of trouble.
Devlin confesses to feeling totally calm in their Ulster Club penalty shootout win over Naomh Conaill and watching how young Cahir Donnelly just “nonchalantly” accepted a request to take a penalty before dinking home the winner.
While they accept running Glen close was credible, it didn’t satisfy Cargin. They felt there was more to give and after their dominance in Antrim, the bigger picture has to be about pushing on in Ulster.
They need to get their passport stamped first and it’s a new challenger. While not having recent final history, Dunloy’s wins over Lámh Dhearg and Portglenone demand respect.
“It is tough to plan for people that you don’t have too much up close and personal experience with,” Devlin said.
“That’s where I feel the Cargin self-confidence comes in, that we’ll play our game and take the performance as it comes. We have done our homework on their key men and will use it.”
Devlin said Pat Shivers has a good chance of being available for Sunday after injury. If he’s not, there is plenty in reserve.
Last year, brothers Mick and Tomás McCann were relying on injections to manage their involvement and Devlin speaks of how they were patching men up in the latter stages.
“This time, we have the healthiest, biggest and strongest panel we have had,” he said.
“If I was a betting man I would say Pat has a good chance of being fit for it but if he’s not the panel is healthy.
We are looking forward to it. We had a good session yesterday (Sunday) and there was a nice buzz after it.”