Cregg's late show settles thriller
Roscommon 4-16 Cavan 4-12
By way of explanation for the previous 70-plus minutes of play, Roscommon manager Kevin McStay suggested that neither side were going to "show their hand" with championship action just around the corner.
It was as good an attempt to explain this final as any other theory doing the rounds at Croke Park yesterday, as the game followed no discernible pattern.
Cavan didn't score a point from play until first-half injury-time, but had scored three goals at that point. Roscommon kicked eight points in a row at one stage in the opening 35 minutes, but still only led by the minimum at the interval. Seven of the eight goals in the game were scored against the wind. And, in the end, a sub finished as top scorer, but all of Cathal Cregg's 2-1 came inside the final 10 minutes.
"It's a win fellas, we got promoted and we got the cup as well," McStay began. "I'm not going to go into the minutiae of it. We're in Division 1, as we hoped to be, and I don't think anybody is getting carried away with the type of match out there.
"It's good that we don't show our hand too much at this stage of the year either. I'm really happy for the lads, showed great fighting spirit, could have walked away from the match a few times, looked like we were beat and then we had it won a few times and started helping Cavan get back into it.
"Overall, it's a happy dressing-room, they'll have their league party tonight so I'd say they're in fairly good form for it."
Cavan raced into a 2-1 to 0-1 lead after nine minutes, with Conor Bradley and Martin Reilly (penalty) finding the net. They would only score 1-1 for the rest of the half, but looked to be well placed at half-time, trailing by just one point (0-12 to 3-2), with the wind set to be in their favour on the restart.
However, we should have known this game wouldn't follow any expected route. The Breffni men moved two points up thanks to their brilliant captain Dara McVeety before Roscommon struck for two goals inside three minutes.
Niall Kilroy got on the end of a slick team move to punch to the net before David Murray grabbed his side's second goal.
Those goals seemed to suck the life from Cavan, but McVeety - who picked up a nasty looking hamstring injury in the final few minutes - brought his tally to 1-3 before they grabbed their fourth goal of the game.
This time Adrian Cole got enough on Gearoid McKieran's dropping point attempt to deflect the ball into the path of Enda Flanagan, who volleyed the loose ball first-time to the net. He was withdrawn seconds later, but in the context of this game it made sense.
Cavan were back to within a point when they fashioned another goal chance. However, Conor Devaney did brilliantly to force Stephen Murray's close-range attempt out for a 45.
Still Cavan hung on. Seanie Johnston brought the sides level with just over 10 minutes to play before Cregg finally settled things. He struck for the first of his goals on 61 minutes and three minutes later repeated the dose.
Cavan did manage to get back to within three points in injury-time, but there was to be no resurrection on this Easter Sunday, even though Roscommon finished with 14 men after Diarmuid Murtagh was black carded late on and couldn't be replaced as Roscommon had used all their subs. Fittingly, though, Cregg had the last word to bring his tally to 2-1.
"We felt at half-time we were only a point down and were well in the game," Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan said.
"In the second-half the loss of Dara McVeety was a huge turning point from our side of things, but you can't concede four goals and every time we made a mistake Roscommon punished us. It's something we'll have to look at.
"At times we played some great football, but you have to consistently do that for 70 or 75 minutes and when the other team is in the ascendancy you have to reduce their scoring threat.
"The one thing I have learned is you can't do defensive set-ups in Croke Park, you have to go at the game. That's a huge learning curve for us getting out to Croke Park and there are massive plusses for us today."
Silverware in the bag, but McStay's mind has already moved on to a Connacht semi-final clash with either New York or Leitrim on May 26.
"Cavan were never going to set up to close it down and we weren't either. It's the league, it's a kind of a bonus game and nobody is going to show their hand too much up here," he said.
"It's quite different to what's going to go on in the next few minutes. We've a big, big match that qualifies us for Connacht if we can beat Leitrim or New York. Today wasn't championship, we weren't going to be showing our hand too much."
Scorers - Roscommon: C Cregg 2-1, D Murtagh 0-4 (2f), N Kilroy 1-1, D Smith, C Devaney 0-3 each, D Murray 1-0, E Smith, N McInerney, I Kilbride, C Murtagh (1f) 0-1 each
Cavan: D McVeety 1-3, S Johnston 0-4 (2f), E Flanagan, C Bradley M Reilly (1-0 pen) 1-0 each, G McKiernan (1f), P Faulkner, C Brady, C O'Reilly (1f), R Galligan (1 '45) 0-1 each
Roscommon - J Featherston 6; P Domican 6, C Daly 7, D Murray 6; F Lennon 6, U Harney 6, B Stack 7; T O'Rourke 6, C Compton 7; C Murtagh 6, N Kilroy 7, C Devaney 8; D Smith 7, C Lennon 7, D Murtagh 8 Subs: N McInerney 7 for Daly (HT), E Smith 7 for O'Rourke (48), C Cregg 8 for C Lennon (52), T O'Rourke 6 for Compton (53 BC), N Daly for Stack (61), I Kilbride for F Lennon (67)
Cavan - R Galligan 6; K Clarke 7, P Faulkner 7, J McLoughlin 6; M Reilly 7, E Flanagan 7, O Kiernan 6; G McKiernan 6, B Magee 6; C Mackey 6, C Bradley 7, C Brady 7; C O'Reilly 7, D McVeety 9, A Cole 7 Subs: N Murray 7 for Magee (29), S Johnston 8 for O'Reilly, N Clerkin 7 for McLoughlin (both HT), S Murray 7 for Flanagan, C Madden 6 for Bradley (both 52), C Moynagh for McVeety (63) Ref - S Hurson (Tyrone)