Hurlers suffer narrow defeat to Louth
Kevin Óg Carney at Darver
Louth sharpshooter Darren Geoghegan was the rock upon which Cavan’s hopes of a first victory in this year’s NHL crashed at Darver on Sunday afternoon last.
In a Division 3B clash that stuck to the script, frees conceded and frees converted proved to be instrumental in deciding the outcome of a game which was as closely fought as the final scoreline suggests.
Cavan went into last weekend’s game on the back of a gutsy opening round draw with Fermanagh but also as clear underdogs against a Louth team that won the corresponding championship (Lory Meagher Cup) in 2020.
On an evening borrowed from the end of March, nothing more than three points ever separated the sides and after Cavan’s own sniper Brian Fitzgerald converted his sixth free of the tie in the 63rd minute, it was all-square (2-11 to 0-17) and looking really promising for the Breffni blues.
Sadly, Cavan failed to gain sufficient traction in the ten minutes that followed with Caoimhín Carney agonisingly failing just seconds before the final whistle to latch onto a shot from impressive sub. Sean Keating that dropped short and wide of the Louth goal.
Earlier, the aforementioned Carney had better luck when he fetched a Fitzgerald effort that also dropped short in the 16th minute, before turning and rifling the ball into the corner of the Louth net to level matters (1-2 to 0-5).
Amidst a contrary wind that slightly favoured Louth in the first half, Cavan gave as good as they got throughout and thanks, in part, to a fine Anthony Sheridan effort (34) and another Carney goal (36) – after Bart Nannery’s shot had cannoned high off the upright – they had a good grip of Louth at the interval, 2-4 to 0-10.
Predictably, the almost error-free Geoghegan was to play an increasing influential role in the second half as Cavan’s creeping tiredness, rashness in the tackle and inexperience conspired to give the Wee County marksman umpteen chances to keep Ollie Bellew’s side at arm’s length.
Geoghegan’s shooting pockmarked some intermittent Cavan successes in front of the Louth goal but, in truth, a reliance on Cuala clubman Fitzgerald became an all too familiar narrative.
That said, Philip Brady put his head above the parapet to pop over a lovely effort (48) from the right wing to cut Louth’s lead to the minimum and, later, Keating scored arguably the point of the game with an over-the-shoulder effort on the hour mark after collecting Anthony Sheridan’s well-taken sideline cut.
The run-in to the final whistle was tension-packed and symptomatic of was a really fine contest. Predictably, messrs. Geoghegan and Fitzgerald were the key figures in the final chapters of the story that unfolded. And, predictably, the Louthman stood up to the plate to counter Fitzgerald’s leveller (70) with the winning score (free) less than 90 seconds later.
Cavan will complete their league season with a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon in two weeks time knowing that a victory for them over Leitrim PLUS victory for table toppers Louth at home to second placed Fermanagh will guarantee them a place in the league decider. Sadly however, a draw will not be good enough for Cavan to progress even if Fermanagh lose to Louth.
Louth: Donal Connolly; Matthew Fee, Ronan Byrne, Andrew Smith; Conor Quigley, Jamie McDonnell, Ryan Walsh; Niall Keenan, James Costello (0-1); Darren Geoghegan (0-13, 9f), Seaghan Conneely, Paddy Lynch (0-1); Paul Matthews (0-1), David Kettle, Feidhleim Joyce (0-1).
Subs; Andrew Macklin for D Kettle; S Kerrisk (0-2) for A Mackin (inj); T McCreesh for J Costello; P Fortune for J McDonnell; D O’Hanrahan for P Lynch.
Cavan: Darren Sheridan; Neasán Neary, Dominic Crudden, Mattie Hynes; Anthony Sheridan (0-1), Enda Shalvey, Philip McCabe; Bart Nannery, Fiachra Hughes; Philip Brady (0-1), Diarmaid Carney, Kevin Conneely; Cillian Sheanon (0-1), Brian Fitzgerald (0-8, 6f), Caoimhín Carney (2-0).
Subs; Sean Keating (0-1) for K Conneely; Jack Barry for F Hughes; Freddie Williams for P McCabe; S McKeogh for A Sheridan; D Madden for B Nannery.
Ref; G McGrath (Wexford)