Northern Switchgear Antrim Senior Football Championship quarter-final
Erin's Own, Cargin 3-16 St Gall's 0-7

THE 18-point winning margin said it all about this Antrim Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Hightown on Saturday as defending champions Cargin completely blew away St Gall's.

A match-up between these clubs conjured up memories of some classic games in the past, but this is now and very much Cargin's time as Damien Cassidy's side were out of sight by half-time as a pair of goals from Paudie McLaughlin inside the opening 10 minutes gave St Gall's a mountain to climb they just didn't look likely to scale.

Even a look at the substitutions Cargin were able to make tells a tale of the quality they possess throughout the panel as some names who have been automatic to start in the past had to be content to come in to close the game and that quality will surely leave the rest of the contenders with some sleepless nights as they just bulldozed into next week's semi-finals.

Right throughout the field they dominated and when McLaughlin netted just two minutes in, there was a sense this game was only going one way.

St Gall's did battle until the last, but it is quite clear their rebuilding period has some way to go as they were just well off the pace on the day against the defending champions who turned up the heat to signal their intention of making it a fourth-straight county title this year.

"You couldn't criticise the lads and how they went about their business: solid, comprehensive, decisive - all the adjectives you want to use,"said Cargin manager Damien Cassidy.

"It was a really good performance from our perspective.

"I think it's fair to say St Gall's are going through a transition but that's neither here nor there as far as we're concerned. It was a game to win and a game that was badly needed for us so I'm delighted with the result.

"Goals are everything and they set the tempo of the game. They didn't respond the way they needed to respond to bring the game back to make it competitive.

"That first quarter set the tempo but you need to be doing that. You can't just go out there and expect things to fall into place - you have to go out and execute the tings you have been working on."

Eoghan McCabe tries to find a way through the Cargin defence

Eoghan McCabe tries to find a way through the Cargin defence

After Jamie Gribbin slung over an early point for the Toome men, McLaughlin hit the first of his two goals when Michael McCann put him in with the net at his mercy.

St Gall's did recover quite well to this nightmare start with Barra McCaffrey and Caolan Chada pointing, but by the water break they were 2-4 to 0-2 adrift as Bradley hit the net for a second time on 10 minutes when his shot from point-blank range forced a save from Chris Kerr, but the ball spun towards goal and crossed the line.

Ciaran Bradley, Sean O'Neill and a beauty with the outside of Pat Shivers' boot completed that tally with Bradley adding his second of the day in the second quarter before frees from Shivers and Tomás McCann pushed the gap out to 11.

Pointed frees from McCaffrey and Kevin Niblock saw St Gall's rally somewhat, but another from McCann just before the break left it 2-8 to 0-4 at the half and Cargin cruising.

As the rain began to fall in the second period, there was no let-up from Cargin and after McCann converted another free, goal number three arrived on 36 minutes as McLaughlin this time started the move when jab-lifting beautifully on the left, spotting the raiding Sean O'Neill who in turn slipped in McCann to dart inside and thump to the net.

Cargin had a big claim for a penalty waved away when Michael McCann appeared to be taken out when about to pull the trigger, but younger brother Tomás kept the board ticking with three converted frees as all St Gall's could muster was a point from John McCaffrey before the water break with the score now 3-12 to 0-5 and St Gall's temporarily down to 14 with Ryan Irvine sin-binned.

The final quarter was just a matter of playing the game out with McCann kicking a beauty out on the left and substitute Kieran Close adding a brace and Shivers another from a free, while all St Gall's could find were some consolation scores through Barra McCaffrey and Aodhán Gallagher.

They were scant consolation for St Gall's as on the day, they had been completely out-played and manager Paddy Murray was quick to acknowledge they had been very much second best.

Ryan Irvine trails down Michael McCann for his black card

Ryan Irvine trails down Michael McCann for his black card

"We were totally outclassed by a better team," he admitted.

"That was a very good Cargin performance, as good as I've seen them in a while. They got off to a good start and we struggled after that.

"You just have to commend them as they were outstanding today and we really struggled. It's not reflective of where we are at - we're better than that - but we just have to put our hands up as we were totally outclassed today.

"The second (goal), you could see in the body language of the players... Goals like that drain the energy of players and we struggled to get it back - that's the bottom line.

"We were chasing the game after that and they (Cargin) were very good in possession, good at holding the ball and it was hard to break it down again to get back into it. They outclassed us and they will be very hard to stop this year."

It looks like a long way back to the top for St Gall's and while some of the heroes of the past remain, the future is with those beginning to graduate into the senior ranks and Murray says there is no other option but to take their licks and drive on.

"We have an excellent U20 side and over the past two years the reserves got into a final that was basically made up of an U20 team," he continued.

"It's a massive step up into senior and that will take a long time. That score is not reflective of where we are at, but there's still a bit of work to be done and hopefully that work will continue in the years to come.

"St Gall's will be back. We have to recover from this; it's going to hurt, but we just have to go at it again next season."

CARGIN: M Magill; S O'Neill (0-1), J Crozier, B Laverty; J Laverty, K O'Boyle, R Devlin; K McShane, P Shivers (0-3, 2 frees); C Bradley (0-2), M McCann, M Kelly; J Gribbin (0-1), T McCann (1-7, 0-6 frees), P McLaughlin (0-3).
Subs: G McCorley for R Devlin (40), K Close (0-2, 1 free) for M Kelly (42), D Johnston for J Gribbin (48), G McCann for K McShane (48), J Carron for C Bradley (54).

ST GALL'S: C Kerr; C Stinton, M Donnelly, S O'Hagan; E McCabe, R Irvine, J McCaffrey (0-1); A Gallagher (0-1), T Bunting; C Chada (0-1), T O'Neill, S Kelly; B McCaffrey (0-3, 1 free), K Niblock (0-1 free), N O'Neill.
Subs: M Pollock for T O'Neill (HT), M Cummings for S O'Hagan (HT), N Burns for N O'Neill (40), T O Ciarain for T Bunting (51), D Wilson for K Niblock (52).

REFEREE: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)