Sunday 20 August 2017

McKieran's goal keeps Breffni men in the hunt

Cavan 1-17 Offaly 0-16

Offaly's Sean Doyle is tackled by James McEnroe of Cavan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Offaly's Sean Doyle is tackled by James McEnroe of Cavan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The relief on Mattie McGleenan's face was clear for all to see as the Cavan boss picked up his first championship win with the Breffni men, recovering from a heartbreaking Ulster SFC defeat to Monaghan to swat Offaly aside and put their name in the hat for this morning's Qualifiers draw.

He admitted "heads were down" after the width of a post denied them a last-gasp draw against the Farney men two weeks ago, but they had no such worries in Bord na Móna O'Connor Park as they got their campaign back on the road with a relatively comfortable defeat of the Faithful.

All the damage was done in the minutes before and after half-time as the visitors kicked on from 0-9 apiece on the half-hour mark to surge into an eight-point lead by the 44th minute, with Gearóid McKiernan's expertly-taken goal proving crucial.

Offaly were held scoreless during that period and McKiernan was the difference between the sides in a game lacking championship intensity, as the Swanlinbar midfielder kicked 1-4 from play in another inspirational display.

Michael Brazil (left) and Nigel Dunne get to grips with Ciaran Brady of Cavan during the Round 1B Qualifier at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Brazil (left) and Nigel Dunne get to grips with Ciaran Brady of Cavan during the Round 1B Qualifier at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

For McGleenan it was sweet redemption after confidence was left on the floor a fortnight ago.

"We weren't good after the Monaghan game, heads were down," a beaming McGleenan said.

"But in fairness the training has been very good and we knew coming down here that it was going to be a very difficult task. We talked at half-time about how it was the same thing against Monaghan and how we have to do things different than we did the last day.

"So we attacked the first five minutes of the second-half, we got a couple of scores, and then we kept Offaly out for that five minutes and that gave us confidence. The goal was always going to be a big play, and we got it. Gearóid got into a great position and we needed that."

It was tit for tat in the opening half with the sides level on seven occasions. Offaly sharpshooter Nigel Dunne opened the scoring on three minutes with a neat point before Seanie Johnston replied with a free.

Breeze

25 June 2017; Niall Clerkin of Cavan is tackled by Brian Darby of Offaly during the Round 1B Qualifier at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
25 June 2017; Niall Clerkin of Cavan is tackled by Brian Darby of Offaly during the Round 1B Qualifier at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Bernard Allen pointed from a tight angle for the Faithful, but Cavan, with the aid of a light breeze, nearly hit the net at the other end and looked far more likely to cut open a tentative Offaly defence.

Niall McDermott blazed wide on eight minutes after a mix-up between David Hanlon and Eoin Rigney left him clean through on goal, but McKiernan quickly levelled, before a brace from the dangerous Dunne sent Offaly into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead.

McKiernan and Sean Doyle swapped scores before points from Johnston (free) and McDermott levelled affairs. In an open game which scarcely recognised the last-chance saloon it was for both sides, they traded further scores through Graham Guilfoyle and McKiernan to leave it 0-7 each.

Dunne pointed for Pat Flanagan's Offaly, but that would be the last time they led and Conor Moynagh and Liam Buchanan burst forward to put the Breffni men ahead, only for Guilfoyle to respond with a beauty from distance.

That would be their last score for nearly 20 minutes, however, as McGleenan's men hit a purple patch, with McDermott and Ciarán Brady seeing out the half impressively and lead 0-11 to 0-9.

Cavan opened the new half exactly as they finished with wing-back Gerard Smith haring forward to fire a great point. That was quickly followed by one from the influential McDermott and another booming effort from distance via Buchanan.

Offaly manager Pat Flanagan reacts in the final moments of the match . Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Offaly manager Pat Flanagan reacts in the final moments of the match . Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Offaly couldn't get traction in any sector at this stage and when McKiernan was played through by Dara McVeety, he fired past Alan Mulhall, effectively putting the game to bed on 44 minutes.

Allen ended the Offaly scoring famine with a point and was surprisingly replaced immediately after, but the lead was still at eight points on the hour mark (1-17 to 0-12).

Niall McNamee came on for the last quarter - in what could be his last game for Offaly - and kicked a point, and while further scores were tagged on by Dunne, Ruarí Allen and Peter Cunningham, Cavan held on to secure a deserved victory in front of a crowd of 3,039.

With a spring in Division 1 under their belts, wins have been hard to come by for McGleenan, but the former Tyrone forward hopes they can now have a long journey through the back door.

"Winning breeds confidence, we have work to do but I'm just delighted to be still in the hat. We had a very tough Division 1 campaign, every game was a massive game," he said.

"Cavan people were saying 'you're expected to win against Offaly'. We were expected to win against Roscommon (in the league) and we came out the wrong end, so we were guarding against that.

"All in all we're delighted, we've another day out which is class and I'll be up early Monday morning to hear where the adventure takes us".

Scorers - Cavan: G McKiernan 1-4, N McDermott 0-4 (2f), S Johnston (2f), R Connolly (2f), L Buchanan 0-2 each, C Brady, G Smith, and C Moynagh 0-1 each. Offaly: N Dunne 0-5 (2f), G Guilfoyle, B Allen 0-2 each, S Doyle R McNamee, M Brazil, B Darby, P Cunningham, N McNamee, R Allen 0-1 each.

Cavan: R Galligan 7; P Faulkner 6, J McEnroe 7, J McLoughlin 6; G Smith 7, C Moynagh 6, C Brady 7; L Buchanan 8, M Reilly 7; C Mackey 7, G McKiernan 9, D McVeety 7; N Clerkin 6, S Johnston 6, N McDermott 7. Subs: R Connolly 7 for Johnston (22), N Murray 6 for Moynagh (34), K Clarke 7 for Smith (42 inj), T Corr 4 for Buchanan (54), T Galligan 6 for Corr (BC 57), J Dillon 6 for McDermott (71)

Offaly: A Mulhall 7; B Darby 7, E Rigney 6, S Pender 6; D Hanlon 6, P Cunningham 7, C Donohoe 7; G Guilfoyle 7, C McNamee 6; S Doyle 6, R McNamee 6, M Brazil 7; R Allen 7, N Dunne 7, B Allen 6. Subs: J Lalor 6 for Pender (38 inj), D Brady 6 for Rigney (46), J O'Connor 6 for Doyle (48), J Moloney 6 for Allen (51), N McNamee 6 for C McNamee (55), A Sullivan 6 for R McNamee (64).

Ref - D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

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