Cavan pick up another league title as they secure Division Three gong with win over Fermanagh

Gearóid McKiernan of Cavan in action against Ché Cullen of Fermanagh during the Allianz Football League Division 3 Final match between Cavan and Fermanagh at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Cavan, last season’s Division 4 champions, picked up a second league title in the space of 12 months when they secured the Division 3 gong at Croke Park last night.

Having lost their last two regulation games this was an important win for Mickey Graham’s side ahead of their Ulster quarter-final tie in three weeks against Armagh or Antrim.

It also provides them with a possible back road route to the All-Ireland championship. They can qualify automatically by reaching the Ulster final but failing that if Tailteann Cup winners Westmeath reach the Leinster decider it will free up a spot for the Division 3 champions.

It was a disappointing night for Fermanagh, who failed to end a losing league final run at headquarters which has now seen them lose four Division 3 finals (2022, 2018, 2015 and 2008) as well as the 2012 Division 4 decider.

The failure of their key forward Ultan Kelm to make any impact, thanks in no small part to Padraig Faulkner, was a key factor in deciding the outcome.

It was always going to be difficult to beat their neighbours in back-to-back fixtures and Ciaran Donnelly’s side did achieve their primary objective of securing promotion. They now host Ulster champions Derry in Brewster Park in the Ulster quarter-final on Saturday week.

There was no repeat of last Sunday’s explosive opening which featured two goals for Cavan. Instead, both sides were exceptionally cagey. Nine minutes had elapsed before the first kick-out and we had to wait until the 13th minute for the first score — a Gearoid McKiernan free.

Fermanagh hit five wides before Ryan Lyons finally opened their account in the 22nd minute and it took Cavan another five minutes to record their first point from play to go 0-4 to 0-2 ahead.

But from the re-start Fermanagh caught Cavan with a series of foot passes along the Hogan Stand side before an unmarked Luke Flanagan crossed to Darragh McGurn who avoided Killian Clarke’s despairing tackle before expertly sliding the ball past Raymond Galligan.

Paddy Lynch’s third point and a brilliant long range free from Fermanagh goalkeeper Sean McNally ended the scoring, with Fermanagh leading 1-3 to 0-5 at the break.

Scores continued to be at a premium in the third quarter, though two in the space of 90 seconds from a Galligan free and Oisin Brady gave them a one-point advantage.

Another Galligan free in the 48th minute doubled Cavan’s advantage as Mickey Graham’s side began to tighten their grip with Galligan (a ‘45) and Dara McVeety on target.

But Fermanagh finally got some traction with a brace of points from Ryan Jones and sub Sean Quigley before a pointed free from Jones left one between the sides with ten minutes left. However, Cavan hit the next five scores including another converted 45 from Galligan to secure a deserved success for Cavan.

Scorers - Cavan: R Galligan 0-4 (2f, 2 45), P Lynch 0-3 (2f), O Brady, G McKiernan (1f), 0-2 each, R O’Neill, J Smith, D McVeety, C Smith, Conor Madden 0-1 each. Fermanagh: D McGurn 1-0, R Lyons 0-3 (2f), S McNally (1f), A Breen, R Jones, S Quigley 0-1 each.

Cavan: R Galligan 9, P Faulkner 8, N Carolan 5; C Brady 8, D McVeety 7, K Clarke 8; Cian Madden 7; J McKenna 4, J Smith 7; G Smith 7, G McKiernan 8 J McCabe 7; O Brady 8, P Lynch 8, R O’Neill 6. Subs: C Brady for McKenna 20m, J McLoughlin for Carolan ht; C Smith for O’Neill 46m, Conor Madden for McKiernan 63m; T Madden for McCabe 66

Fermanagh: S McNally 7; L Cullen 6, J Cassidy 7, C McManus 6; L Flanagan 7, S McGullion 7, R McCaffrey 6; C Cullen 7, R Jones 7, B Horan 7; J Ellis 6, R Lyons 6, A Breen 6; U Kelm 5 D McGurn 7. Subs: S Quigley 6 for Breen 42m, D McCusker 6 for McManus 42m, C O’Shea 5 for Ellis 51m, G Jones for McGurn 58m, C McGee for Horan 70 + 2.

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).