Third NFL defeat for new-look Cavan

NFL Division 3

Kildare 1-21

Cavan 0-20

Cavan slipped to their third defeat in this year’s Division 2 campaign after a wasteful performance in Newbridge.

Mickey Graham’s side came into the match as underdogs, with a number of players ruled out and preparations disrupted due to Covid-related issues, and the manager handed out debuts to Cormac Timoney, Cormac O’Reilly and Oisin Brady as he fielded something of a new-look side.

They competed well for most of the first half but a disastrous spell either side of the half-time break saw the Lilywhites open a nine-point lead before Cavan, who squandered several scoring opportunities in the second half, rallied well and cut the gap to three with time almost up.

Chris Conroy’s place-kicking was outstanding and was key to Cavan’s final-quarter comeback, which ultimately fell short.

Cavan fell 0-3 to 0-0 down after seven minutes following two frees from Jimmy Hyland either side of a well-taken Ben McCormack effort from play.

Conor Smith opened Cavan’s account after Gearoid McKiernan won a kick-out and Smith played a one-two with Oisin Brady and fired over.

Kevin Feely fielded well and Hyland fisted over at the other end but Cormac O’Reilly, who turned in a fine performance, won and converted a mark on the right wing to halve the deficit.

McCormack raised another white flag which was cancelled out by the first of Conroy’s eight frees after a foul on McKiernan but a well-taken score from Liam Power made it 0-6 to 0-3 on 15 minutes.

Cavan, though, would go on to kick three in succession to tie the game by the 21-minute mark, with Cormac O’Reilly heavily involved in them all. He fired over the first from the right touchline before finding Conor Smith, who beat his man and drove over.

And when O’Reilly laid off for McKiernan to loop over a trademark score off the left, Cavan were level and looking like they may have weathered the hosts’ storm.

Hyland (free) and McKiernan, with a lovely kick on the run after a good run from Ciaran Brady, traded scores. Daragh Kirwan and McKiernan (free) did likewise to leave it level at 0-8 apiece but Kildare put some daylight between them in a potent 60-second spell in which they landed three points.

Kirwan landed the first, then Hyland intercepted a kick-out and registered another before Kevin Flynn sent over a super kick from long range to make it 0-11 to 0-8.

Ciaran Brady won a free in a typical foray forward, with Conroy doing the honours from 40 metres off the deck again, before Hyland converted one at the other end after what looked a harsh call against the Cavan defence.

And when Conroy was turned over after gathering a short kick-out and Paul Cribbin sent over, Jack O’Connor’s side suddenly had a four-point to lead again, 0-13 to 0-9.

Cavan had a chance to cut the gap to the minimum at half-time when they were awarded what looked a soft penalty after Padraig Faulkner was impeded but Martin Reilly’s spot kick was kept out by goalkeeper

Cavan needed a fast start on the resumption but that fell to Kildare who reeled off three quick points from Kirwan, Hyland (free) and Kevin Flynn. Cavan were getting a lot of men back but at this stage, the home side seemed able to punch holes in the Breffni defence with alarming ease.

Cavan pulled one back with a 40-metre free from Conroy and he repeated the trick, this time from 44 metres, to cut the gap to five on 50 minutes.

However, the Blues had wasted a few good chances in this spell and Kildare punished them when, after a long delivery, Hyland laid off for sub Fergal Conway to find the net from close range.

Kildare carved out two more goal chances but opted to take their points from both – Flynn and Hyland the finishers – which kept Cavan’s slim hopes alive. Ten points down, they didn’t throw in the towel and would reel off nine points in the final 20 minutes.

Two from McKiernan (one free) and a super point from Conroy with the outside of the boot made it 1-18 to 0-14 and after a great ball from sub Conor Madden, Bryan Magee was fouled and Conroy again converted.

Sub Caoimhan McGovern, also making his debut, kicked a good point which was cancelled out by Feely to leave five between the teams entering the dying minutes.

Good work from Gerry Smith created space for Oisin Kiernan to curl in a terrific strike but at the other end, Kildare again got through too easily for Kirwan to point.

Another for McGovern and two Conroy frees made it 1-20 to 0-20 with time almost up. Cavan pressed for a goal and looked to be in at one point but a pass was overhit, the chance was lost and from their next attack, Kildare rounded off the scoring with another free from Hyland.

The loss means that Cavan remain very much in National League Limbo; a win over Roscommon next weekend in Kingspan Breffni could see them promoted, depending on results elsewhere. However, were they to lose and results in other games go a certain way, Division 3 could beckon.

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Shea Ryan, Mick O’Grady, Eoin Doyle, David Hyland, Con Kavanagh, Kevin Flynn (0-3), Kevin Feely (0-1), Aaron Masterson, Paul Cribbin (0-1), Paddy Brophy, Liam Power (0-1), Ben McCormack (0-2), Darragh Kirwan (0-4), Jimmy Hyland (0-9, 5f)

Subs: Fergal Conway (1-0) for Power (46 mins), Neil Flynn for P Cribbin (58), Keith Cribbin for Kavanagh (60), Eanna O’Connor for Brophy (63), Tommy Moolick for Kirwan (68)

Cavan: Raymond Galligan; Jason McLoughlin, Killian Brady, Cormac Timoney, Gerard Smith, Chris Conroy (0-8, 7f), Ciaran Brady, Gearoid McKiernan (0-5, 2f), Padraig Faulkner, Oisin Kiernan (0-1), Martin Reilly, Oisin Brady, Conor Smith (0-2), Cormac O’Reilly (0-2, 1m), Evan Doughty

Subs: Conor Madden for Doughty (43 mins), Luke Fortune for O Brady (45), Caoimhan McGovern (0-2) for M Reilly (53), Bryan Magee for C Smith (58), Niall Murray for O’Reilly (71)

Ref: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

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