By Michael McMullan
THE Cargin squad is a “good place to be” insists James Laverty as the Antrim champions brace themselves with Sunday’s rematch with Glen at Celtic Park (3pm).
There is contentment in his voice as he sups over a cuppa at the recent Ulster Club launch.
His Cargin days weren’t always successful. He remembers beating the tin of the Casement Park stand when they won the 1999 title.
When the 2006 win came along, he hoped his underage team would follow in their footsteps. St Gall’s had other ideas and ’06 was just a blip in their dominance.
Laverty remembers his father consoling him in the days of u-12 and u-14 when hammerings were more prominent than silverware.
“My Da was managing us and we had been beaten at home by a team Cargin would’ve never been beaten by,” Laverty said. “Da had to comfort everybody. We were in tears and thought we were useless.”
A “growth spurt” helped their group compete in u-16 and minor finals, it was enough to push them into the senior ranks.
“It took us a while to get back but since we got our hands on it in ’15, it’s been hard to let go of it,” Laverty said, content in the knowledge there is plenty left in the Cargin tank.
The old stagers look after themselves well enough to keep trucking. Winning helps. So too does the new brigade who won back-to-back minor titles. The u-19 title also followed this year.
Current manager Ronan Devlin also helped with the foundations in the form of MacRory Cup success with St Mary’s, Magherafelt that had Cargin fingerprints too.
“At least three of those players are now in our senior team and pushing the starters if they are not starting,” Laverty said.
“Now we have that blend of having the older players hanging around long enough for the younger players to establish themselves and there would be no need for us anymore.”
The narrative lingered two years ago. Cargin were ageing, finished even.
“A few years ago that was the chat, we have managed to stabilise it and continue to bring home silverware,” Laverty added, saying how the mood is “brilliant” going into the Ulster campaign.
“There are no young boys taking the hand out of the older boys at the minute. It is a good place to be, it’s a good team to play on and long may it continue.”
Cargin needed both extra-time and penalties, helped with no shortage of nerve, to edge through against Naomh Conaill last season before their defeat to Glen.
It was a game they targeted and would’ve had the same regrets the Glenties men carried had they been on the wrong side of the result.
“We took a lot from it and it helped us prepare for the semi-final and gave us the belief that we are not that far away,” Laverty added, hoping they can carry the same vibe to Celtic Park on Sunday. He admits that both teams missed chances but Glen “probably deserved” their victory and found it hard to watch the Ulster final without the pang of regret.
“I didn’t want to watch it (last year’s Ulster final) but when Glen won it, you are wondering “what could’ve been” but if we had got there, Kilcoo could’ve done something different.”