Cavan move to the top of Division Two with deserved triumph over Meath
CAVAN 2-14 MEATH 1-12
FIVE points separated these neighbouring foes at the final whistle, and not even the most partisan Royal could scream an injustice.
Cavan were worth every one of those five points and more against a Meath outfit who saw plenty of ball but lacked the cutting edge of their hosts.
A crowd of 6,572 were in Kingspan Breffni to witness Cavan go top of the Allianz Football League Division 2 table, with five points garnered from a possible six.
Meath, meanwhile, remain stuck on three points and this could ultimately prove a hugely damaging blow to their perennial ambitions to escape the second tier.
A 49th minute penalty, calmly converted by sub Donal Lenihan after a lengthy hold-up exacerbated by a melee, gave Meath a flicker of hope.
That Royal retort came straight after Cavan subs Gearoid McKiernan (with a soaring 'mark') and Cian Mackey (with a defence-splitting pass) had combined to tee up wandering centre-back Ciaran Brady for a 44th minute goal.
That left ten between the sides. Lenihan's penalty, after Cillian O'Sullivan was hauled down, kept the contest on life-support.
But the closest Meath came, from there to the finish, was five points as the Breffni men held on comfortably, albeit 'keeper Raymond Galligan had to show sharp reflexes deep in stoppage time to deny Shane McEntee.
For the opening 35 minutes, what should have been a feisty derby affair was strangely lopsided and consequently devoid of any blood and thunder.
The visitors had no shortage of possession but were laborious in almost everything they tried, allowing Cavan to get back in numbers, then feast on a glut of Meath turnovers and hit them fast on the counter.
Caoimhin O'Reilly opened Cavan's account with a sharp left-footed brace, sandwiching Eamon Wallace's fifth minute opener for Meath – who then endured 20 scoreless minutes as their hosts soared into the ascendant.
The Meath defence was affording far too much space and Cavan's inside line capitalised with 0-6 from play before the break, Niall Clerkin leading the way with three.
After Graham Reilly had ended the Royals' barren spell, cutting the deficit to five, Cavan delivered the perfect riposte – a 27th minute goal via centre-forward Conor Moynagh.
The score was shrouded in an element of fortune but also underlined Cavan's quicker reaactions. Adrian Cole's point attempt ricocheting off the right upright and back into the hands of Moynagh. Side-stepping his man, he drilled a low shot in off the left post.
Clerkin then made it an eight-point game before Meath rallied with two injury-time points from Wallace (a lone first half beacon up front) and a Padraig McKeever free.
Cavan had numerous heroes, most notably Brady, skipper Dara McVeety, O'Reilly and McKiernan off the bench. Meath had no one close to their level.
SCORERS - Cavan: C Moynagh, C Brady 1-0 each, N Clerkin, C O'Reilly (1f) 0-3 each, B Magee (2f), G McKiernan 0-2 each, A Cole, D McVeety, R Galligan ('45'), K Clarke 0-1 each. Meath: D Lenihan 1-0 (pen), P McKeever 0-3 (2f), E Wallace, G Reilly, C O'Sullivan, B Menton 0-2 each, D O'Neill 0-1.
CAVAN: R Galligan; N Murray, P Faulkner, D Phillips; M Reilly, C Brady, E Flanagan; K Clarke, B Magee; N Clerkin, C Moynagh, O Kiernan; C O'Reilly, A Cole, D McVeety. Subs: C Mackey for Clerkin (ht), G McKiernan for Cole (ht), J McLoughlin for Phillips (52), S Murray for Flanagan (54), T Galligan for O'Reilly (63), R Connolly for Magee (69).
MEATH: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, D Keogan; B Conlon, B Power, S McEntee; B Menton, A Flanagan; J McEntee, P McKeever, G Reilly; B McMahon, C O'Sullivan, E Wallace. Subs: D Lenihan for McMahon (ht), H Rooney for Flanagan (43), S Tobin for J McEntee (55), D O'Neill for Conlon (55), C Halligan for Rooney (BC 61), T O'Reilly for Reilly (63),
REF: C Branagan (Down).