Cavan sink to the basement after Wicklow loss

NFL Division 3 relegation play-off

Wicklow 3-11

Cavan 0-18

Paul Fitzpatrick at Páirc Tailteann

Wicklow produced the shock of the season so far as they consigned Ulster champions Cavan to the basement for the first time in the Breffni men’s history.

There were surreal scenes in the closing stages as Wicklow, having used all their subs, hung on, defender Nicky Devereux reduced to limping in the full-forward line. But the Leinster side held out, a free from goalkeeper Mark Jackson providing some breathing space in a frantic finale.

Early on, Wicklow raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead with scores from Andy Maher, Mark Kenny and Patrick O’Connor but by the first water break, Cavan were ahead.

Successive points from Conor Madden – a flick after a long delivery, something Cavan utilised a lot – frees from Patrick Lynch and Gearoid McKiernan and a hooked effort from Conor Brady after a trademark steal by Martin Reilly, playing his 152nd match for the Blues.

While both defences looked shaky and were cut open on several occasions, the respective attacks failed to punish them. Both sides missed goal chances – Cavan hit the post and crossbar in the same move 25 minutes in – before the Garden men hit the jackpot on the half-hour mark when Seanie Furlong and sub Eoin Murtagh combined to release Patrick O’Connor, who side-footed to the net.

It was score for score till half-time, at which point Wicklow held a slender 1-5 to 0-7 lead.

The fast restart the Breffni men were looking for arrived when Patrick Lynch levelled it and Thomas Galligan sent over a brilliant point but just as it looked as though the Ulster champions would take charge, Wicklow struck for 1-2 unanswered.

Veteran Seanie Furlong capitalised when Padraig Faulkner misjudged the bounce and finished well past Ray Galligan and quickfire points from Conor Byrne and Kevin Quinn saw Wicklow move 2-7 to 0-9 clear.

Conor Madden hit back with a superb individual score but Wicklow smelled blood and goaled for the third time when Furlong won a mark but, sensing Cavan were dozing, went short to Eoin Darcy, who was fouled and the big target man made no mistake from the spot to make it 3-7 to 0-10.

Suddenly, the ambush was well and truly on. Cavan pushed hard in the closing stages but Wicklow defended bravely and, crucially, kept a clean sheet as they closed out a famous win.

Cavan: R Galligan (0-2, 1f, one 45), Cian Reilly, P Faulkner, K Clarke, L Fortune, C Timoney (0-1), O Kiernan, T Galligan (0-2), Conor Brady (0-1), M Reilly, G McKiernan (0-3, 2f), C Smith (0-1), C McGovern, P Lynch (0-3, 2f), C Madden (0-3, 1m)

Subs: Caoimhin O’Reilly for McGovern (27 mins), P Meade for Smith (46), C Conroy (0-1) for Fortune (50), O Pierson (0-1) for Caoimhin O’Reilly (57), S McEvoy for Lynch (70)

Wicklow: M Jackson (0-1f), N Devereaux, J Snell, O Manning, JP Hurley, N Donnelly, D Devereaux, P O’Toole, K Quinn (0-1), A Maher (0-1), M Kenny (0-1), C Byrne (0-1), E Darcy, S Furlong (2-3, 1-0 pen, 1f), P O’Connor (1-2)

Subs: E Murtagh for Snell (18 mins), A Murphy for O’Connor (53), D Fitzgerald for Maher (59), C O’Brien (0-1) for Quinn (60), P Cunningham for Darcy (67), D Healy for C Byrne (67)