Cavan overcome Longford but win comes at a cost
A strong second-half performance helped Cavan pick up their first win of the campaign with a comfortable six-point victory over Longford at Kingspan Breffni.
However, the win came at a cost as the home side lost key men James Smith and Ciaran Brady to injury, both early in the second half.
Cavan were the better side although they made hard work of it at times.
At half-time, Cavan led by two, 1-9 to 0-10, having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. The home side were guilty of poor shooting, kicking six wides and dropping another four short and Longford grew in confidence as the half wore on, with Rian Brady and Robbie Smyth sharp up front.
Longford were two points up within three minutes thanks to a long-range free from captain Darren Gallagher and a well-taken point from Brady but Cavan pinned them back for the following 20 minutes, out-scoring their neighbours by 1-6 to 0-1, three of those Breffni points coming from centre-back Oisin Kiernan.
Gearoid McKiernan opened Cavan’s account with a good point before Martin Reilly levelled it following a Killian Brady turnover. The skilful Rian Brady kicked his second at the other end but a 40-metre free from newcomer Patrick Lynch got Cavan back on level terms on 13 minutes.
In the last action of the first quarter, Jason McLoughlin, lining out in an unusual half-forward role, linked with Ciaran Brady and McKiernan and the big Cavan Gaels man powered through at speed and planted a cool finish to the corner of Paddy Collum’s net to make it 1-3 to 0-3.
Better was to come from Mickey Graham’s men on the restart; a terrific Ciaran Brady run was finished by Kiernan, with a trademark curled effort, and a point from teenager Caoimhan McGovern followed by another from Kiernan made it 1-6 to 0-3 as Cavan appeared to be in complete control.
But Longford, who were on the receiving end of a heavy beating at home to Derry a week ago, rallied impressively; a point from Joseph Hagan got them going again and although the in-form Kiernan replied, Hagan kicked a super score and then Liam Connerton raised his first white flag to leave a goal between them.
James Smith won an attacking mark for Cavan but opted to lay it off; the move broke down and Longford punished Cavan on the counter, Gallagher converting a free.
Three Cavan wides followed but the reliable Ciaran Brady strode forward to drive over and make it 1-8 to 0-8.
Longford hit back with two high-quality points from wing-back Daniel Mimnagh and Smyth, after a perfect pass from Rian Brady, but Cavan had the final say of the half when Oisin Pierson won and converted a 47-metre free to leave two between them at the halfway mark.
On the resumption, though, James Smith landed awkwardly when contesting the throw-in and after a six-minute delay, was stretchered off. As the rain fell, the scores dried up, Pierson and Gallagher trading frees and McKiernan clipping over a trademark looping point on the run.
Cavan were much more composed in possession after the break and succeeded in holding the Leinster side scoreless from play.
By the second water break, Cavan were four to the good following white flags from All-Star full-back Padraig Faulkner and an excellent Lynch free, with Smyth converting a free at the other end.
Lively Cavan sub Conor Smith won and converted an attacking mark to start off the final quarter; his Killygarry clubmate Martin Reilly sent over another before Smith landed his second to make it 1-16 to 0-12.
Longford were thrown a lifeline when Lynch dragged Quinn down – for which he picked up a black card – and Gallagher converted from the spot but the cushion remained and Cavan finished well, Galligan kicking two fine frees and Smith grabbing his third as they ran out 1-19 to 1-13 winners.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-2f), Killian Clarke, Padraig Faulkner (0-1), Jason McLoughlin, Ciaran Brady (0-1), Oisin Kiernan (0-3), Cian Reilly, Conor Brady, Killian Brady, Martin Reilly (0-2), Gearoid McKiernan (1-2), James Smith, Caoimhan McGovern (0-1), Patrick Lynch (0-2f), Oisin Pierson (0-2f)
Subs: Conor Madden for K Brady (ht), Luke Fortune for J Smith (36, inj.), Stephen Murray for C Brady (51, inj), Conor Smith (0-3, 1m) for Pierson (55), Sean McEvoy for McGovern (55), Cormac Timoney for McLoughlin (70)
Longford: Paddy Collum, Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Colm P Smyth, Dessie Reynolds, Gary Rogers, Daniel Mimnagh (0-1), David McGivney, Joseph Hagan (0-2), Darren Gallagher (1-3, 3f, 1-0 pen), Rian Brady (0-2), Michael Quinn, Robbie Smyth (0-3, 2f), Liam Connerton (0-1), Iarla O’Sullivan (0-1)
Subs: Gerard Flynn for Quinn (8 mins, inj.), Quinn for Flynn (13), Peter Lynn for O’Sullivan (57), Barry McKeon for Hagan (63), Larry Moran for Connerton (70)
Ref: Cormac Reilly (Meath)