Cavan leave Down singing the blues
Cavan 0-17 Down 0-14
Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan talked down a flashpoint incident before half-time at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night that resulted in his Down counterpart Eamonn Burns being sent to the stands.
Burns was seen to push one of the Cavan players when a group, including some mentors, converged on the sideline during a break in play, leading to an admonishment from referee Padraig O'Sullivan.
The incident was out of character with the game itself, which was played in good spirits, but it did lead to heightened tensions as the teams exited the pitch shortly afterwards, with Burns spending the second-half watching from outside the perimeter fence.
"Ah, a bit of holding hands," said McGleenan dismissively. "It was a holding hands session. Listen, if there was anything in it both teams would have come out in the second half and they'd have been thumping. A great game of football in the second half, a great game of football."
After a tentative and error-marked opening half, Down held a slender 0-7 to 0-6 lead. They were dogged and had four excellent goal chances, two in each half, and in the first period they hit seven wides and dropped three point attempts short. Over the game they had 37 shots, so they are creating chances, just not finishing enough of them.
Cavan, still unbeaten in a highly congested division, had a monumental figure in Gearoid McKiernan. He scored four points from play and never seemed content to score an ordinary one; each inspirational strike seemed to be worth two. The other big difference was Cavan's better bench options. Five of their points came from substitutes, with Cian Mackey and Conor Bradley impressing when introduced.
"I am delighted with the attitude of the players," chimed McGleenan, whose side are now within touching distance of an immediate return to the top tier.
"If substitutes come on the field just to run around and take part, that is of no benefit to us. You have to go in and make an impact. And I think every one of the players had an impact."
McGleenan admitted that with five minutes left, tied at 0-13 a piece, it was there for both teams.
"Listen, five minutes to go that game could have gone anywhere. And we kicked on. That's the pleasing part of it," he said.
Fifteen minutes into the second-half Down squandered successive goal chances at a time when the game was delicately balanced, with the visitors trailing by one. First Ryan Johnston had an effort blocked brilliantly by Raymond Galligan and a minute later Conal Harrison threaded a delightful pass through to Donal O'Hare, who put his shot past the far post.
Down were swiftly punished when Cavan hit them with two fine scores from Bradley and Oisin Kiernan to lead 0-12 to 0-9. To their credit, Down came again. In the final 10 minutes three unanswered points had them level, before Cavan finally broke free. Seanie Johnston came on and scored with his first touch, Dara McVeety had another and in injury-time Galligan landed a 45, while Bradley had a fourth.
In the first-half Cavan went 15 minutes without a score and their full-back line found the double act of Harrison and O'Hare slippery work.
In the 25th minute it took a smart stop from Galligan to deny Harrison. Having fallen two points behind in the first four minutes, Down upped a gear, with four points on the bounce. Harrison kicked a beauty midway through the first-half and O'Hare knocked over a sweet score from a sideline.
Cavan snapped to life, with Conor Moynagh ending their scoreless spell with a 20th-minute point, and McKiernan had them back level nearing the half-hour. From there to the last few minutes they were deadlocked four more times before Cavan broke free.
Down now face a battle to survive. Like last year it may go to the final day. Cavan are thinking of higher ground.
Scorers - Cavan: G McKiernan 0-4, C O'Reilly 0-3 (2f), C Mackey, C Bradley 0-2, B Magee (f), C Moynagh, O Kiernan, S Johnston, D McVeety, R Galligan (45) 0-1 each Down: D O'Hare 0-4 (1 lb, 2 fs), C Harrison 0-3 (1 f), A Doherty 0-2 ( 2f), R Johnston, S Millar, C Mooney, K McKernan, R Wells 0-1
Cavan - R Galligan 8; Conor Brady 7, P Faulkner 7, J McLoughlin 6; S Murray 7, Ciaran Brady 7, E Flanagan 7; G McKiernan 9, B Magee 7; O Kiernan 7, C Moynagh 7, M Reilly 8; N Clerkin 6, D McVeety 8, C O'Reilly 6. Subs: C Mackey 8 for Conor Brady (25 mins); A Cole 7 for Clerkin (half-time); C Bradley 8 for Moynagh (45); S Johnston 7 for Flanagan (64); K Clarke 6 for Murray (67).
Down - M Reid 7; C Flanagan 7, B McArdle 7, A Doherty 8; R Wells 7, N McParland 7, C Mooney 7; P Turley 8, N Donnelly 7; S Millar 8, C Maginn 7, R Johnston 7; D O'Hare 8, C Francis 6, C Harrison 8. Subs: K McKernan 7 for Francis (45 mins); D McKibbin 6 for Millar (inj 55); C Poland 6 for Donnelly (60); R Millar 6 for O'Hare (68).
Ref - P O'Sullivan (Kerry).