at Croke Park
Four second-half goals saw Roscommon once again tread on Cavan’s dreams in a thrilling Division 2 final at HQ.
A curious feature of this one-sided rivalry – Cavan have now beaten Roscommon just once in 10 league and championship meetings since 2012 – is that the Ulster side have, in most of the clashes, blown a handy lead at some stage.
And they eased themselves into just that here when a superbly-taken goal from youngster Conor Bradley and a penalty from former Burnley FC professional Martin Reilly helped them into a 2-1 to 0-1 advantage after eight minutes.
However, just as they did in their regular group clash a fortnight ago, when Cavan had built up a 0-5 to 0-1 foothold, the Rossies went on to reel off eight unanswered points through Man of the Match Conor Devaney, two from the razor sharp Donie Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh (three, two frees), a Ciarain Murtagh free and another for captain Devaney.
Cavan ended an 18-minute scoreless spell with their third goal when veteran Cian Mackey forced a turnover and the excellent Dara McVeety side-footed home.
Again, though, Roscommon’s response was excellent; Donie Smith threaded a right-footed point through the eye of a needle and added another from long range to make it 3-1 to 0-11. Tadhg O’Rourke and Niall Kilroy added further points before full-back Padraig Faulkner came up with one at the other end as Kevin McStay’s charges carried a 0-12 to 3-2 lead into half-time.
With a strong wind at their backs, Cavan had reasons to be cheerful at this juncture, especially when go-to man McVeety curled in the opener 90 seconds after the restart. However, the concession of four second-half goals would prove their undoing.
By the 42nd minute, they were in front at 3-5 to 0-13 after scores from Johnston (free) and McVeety sandwiched a Niall McInerney effort but that was as good as it got for Mattie McGleenan’s men.
Moments later, Niall Kilroy palmed in the Rossies’ first major and when corner-back David Murray cut inside and booted home, they were suddenly five up and in the driving seat.
For all their chances, the Breffni men were guilty of sloppy play in the final third. After Gearoid McKiernan was blocked down, Roscommon broke and impressive sub Enda Smith clipped over their next but there was another turn in what was becoming an old school, free-wheeling clash.
First, McVeety curled in superbly and then, when Adrian Cole broke the ball down, Enda Flanagan sent a soccer-style half-volley to the roof of James Featherston’s net.
And when Ciaran Brady came up from defence to make it a one-point game again with 18 minutes remaining, Cavan could sense a first national senior title since 1952 was within their grasp.
This was reinforced when Johnston split the posts from the wing but the tide turned with 10 minutes to go when McVeety, out in front, pulled up injured, Roscommon broke quickly and sub Cathal Cregg slid the ball under Raymond Galligan.
Johnston cut the gap to two again but the Connacht side were ruthless up front and when Enda Smith played McInerney in brilliantly and Galligan’s save fell to Devaney, the captain made no mistake in bagging their fourth goal.
Cavan huffed and puffed thereafter but never looked like blowing Roscommon away. Galligan (45) and Ian Kilbride exchanged points and, in junk time, Johnston (free) added another but the experienced Cregg had the final say as the Connacht champions eased home.
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1, 45), J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, E Flanagan (1-0), M Reilly (1-0, pen), C Brady (0-1), O Kiernan, G McKiernan (0-2f), K Clarke, D McVeety (1-3), B Magee, C Mackey, C O’Reilly (0-1f), A Cole, C Bradley (1-0)
Subs: N Murray for Magee (29 mins), N Clerkin for McLoughlin, S Johnston (0-4, 2f) for O’Reilly (both h/t), C Madden for Bradley, S Murray for Flanagan (both 51), C Moynagh for McVeety (63)
Roscommon: J Featherston, D Murray (1-0), P Domican, F Lennon, C Daly, U Harney, B Stack, T O’Rourke, C Compton, C Murtagh (0-1f), N Kilroy (1-1), C Devaney (1-3), D Smith (0-4), C Lennon, D Murtagh (0-4, 2f)
Subs: N McInerney (0-1) for Daly (h/t), E Smith (0-1) for O’Rourke (47), C Cregg (1-1) for C Lennon (51), O’Rourke for Compton (54, BC), N Daly for Stack (61), I Kilbride (0-1) for F Lennon (67)
Ref: S Hurson (Tyrone)