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Murray goals breathe life into resurgent Breffni men

Cavan 3-10 Laois 1-6, Allianz NFL Division 2

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Cavan’s Stephen Murray does his best to block down John O’Loughlin of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cavan’s Stephen Murray does his best to block down John O’Loughlin of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Cavan’s Stephen Murray does his best to block down John O’Loughlin of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It wasn't a day for attractive football and Cavan boss Mickey Graham hit the nail on the head when he said you have to "fight and scrap for everything you can get in this division."

It wasn't pretty - aside from Stephen Murray's spectacular late goal - with the O'Moore Park stand vibrating as Storm Dennis rocked Portlaoise. But Graham won't be bothered as the Breffni men are back on track.

Some early epitaphs had already been written, given the marquee names which Cavan are without this season - and their dismal opening-round reversal to Armagh - but they now stand joint-top of Division 2 after successive victories. Graham expects more drama over the remainder of a rip-roaring League.

"It has been well documented and maybe Cavan more so than any other team in terms of the players that stepped away or went travelling, which is understandable, but all you can do is put 15 out on the field any given day and hopefully they work hard and give their best shot," he said.

"We have a bunch of lads doing that at the moment. It would have been very easy for us to make excuses after the Armagh game and say we are missing this and that and lads are injured, but they didn't. The lads worked hard at training and it is great to see the work paying off.

"I said it from day one that a lot of teams would take points off each other and there's going to be a lot more twists and turns before this division is finalised."

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Kieran Lillis tries to gather possession for Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kieran Lillis tries to gather possession for Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Kieran Lillis tries to gather possession for Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

His opposite number, Mike Quirke, was left scratching his head after the hosts - whose supporters were outsung by a vocal fanbase from Cavan - failed to motor following a decent start and were outgunned all over the pitch.

Frustrating

"It is very frustrating, particularly because you don't have an answer," a bemused Quirke said. "We're looking for consistency and we just didn't play. The last ten minutes of the first half, the whole second half, we didn't play at all. It was not an accurate reflection of where they are.

"There's still going to be loads of twists and turns but for us, we've got to put that out of our heads as quickly as we can and start focusing on Clare next weekend. We're right in the mix, same as everybody else, to fight it out and scrap for points to stay in the division."

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Thomas Galligan is closed down by Eoin Lowry of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Thomas Galligan is closed down by Eoin Lowry of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Thomas Galligan is closed down by Eoin Lowry of Laois. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Having travelled down at 9.15 yesterday morning when the game got the all-clear, Cavan wasted no time getting on the score sheet, with Oisin Pierson on target after 15 seconds.

Cavan struggled to make use of the gale-force breeze at their backs in the first quarter, however, and they trailed by a point after 22 minutes when Eoin Lowry scrambled the ball past Raymond Galligan after Mark Barry botched his initial effort.

A Barry free put them two ahead, 1-3 to 0-4, but they were forced to wait over 25 minutes for their next score as Cavan took complete control. Pierson and wing-back Gerard Smith caused all sorts of problems, with three points apiece from play in the opening half.

They received a double boost in first-half injury-time when Evan Doughty's effort for a point looped over Niall Colbert and into the Laois net, while O'Moore centre-back Robert Pigott was sin-binned two minutes later and sat out a crucial juncture of the game with Cavan up by five points at the break, 1-8 to 1-3.

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Cavan's Gerard Smith reacts after a missed goal chance. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cavan's Gerard Smith reacts after a missed goal chance. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Cavan's Gerard Smith reacts after a missed goal chance. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Murray, usually a teak-tough defender, came on at half-time and his first action was to beautifully palm the ball over Colbert for their second goal either side of the break to change the game's complexion.

It was a blow which Laois never recovered from - Quirke said "their early goal kind of deflated our lads" - and they could only muster three points with the aid of the elements as Cavan managed the game expertly.

Gary Walsh had a penalty to leave four in it heading into injury-time.

However, Galligan capped a fine display with a smart save before Murray put the icing on the cake with a thunderbolt from distance in injury-time to send Cavan fans home happy.

Scorers - Cavan: S Murray 2-0; G Smith, B Magee (2f, 1 m), O Pierson 0-3 each; E Doughty 1-0; R Galligan 0-1f. Laois: E Lowry 1-0; E O'Carroll 0-3 (2f, 1 '45); J O'Loughlin 0-2; M Barry 0-1 (f).

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Seán O'Flynn of Laois is tackled after the ball by Cavan's Killian Brady. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Seán O'Flynn of Laois is tackled after the ball by Cavan's Killian Brady. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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Seán O'Flynn of Laois is tackled after the ball by Cavan's Killian Brady. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cavan - R Galligan 8; M Reilly 7, P Faulkner 7, K Brady 7; G Smith 8, C Brady 7, O Kiernan 7; T Galligan 7, C Conroy 6; L Fortune 5, B Magee 7, E Doughty 6; O Pierson 8, G McKiernan 7, J Smith 6. Subs: S Murray 9 for Fortune (h-t), C Madden 6 for Conroy (52), L Buchanan for J Smith (69), P Gilcreest for Doughty (72), S Smith for Magee (73).

Laois - N Corbet 6; B Byrne 6, M Timmons 6, G Hanrahan 6; P O'Sullivan 6, R Pigott 6, S O'Flynn 6; K Lillis 5, J O'Loughlin 7; E Lowry 6, M Barry 6, S Byrne 5; E O'Carroll 6, C Murphy 5, M Keogh 5. Subs: D O'Connor 6 for Keogh (h-t), T Collins 6 for Byrne (46), R Munnelly 6 for Murphy (50), G Walsh 6 for O'Flynn (60), D Whelan for O'Carroll (65).

Ref - N Cullen (Fermanagh).

Irish Independent