Minors overturn seven-point deficit to defeat Fermanagh

Ulster Minor Football Championship

Cavan 0-18

Fermanagh 3-6

The Cavan minor side came through a sticky battle on Saturday afternoon last at Brewster Park when they game from six points behind at half-time to win by three. Goals usually win games, but not on this occasion for Fermanagh who came in underdogs after Cavan beat them in the league a few weeks ago.

One thing this Cavan side has is fighting spirit as they always come back with a response when hit with a score or two by their opponent. The turning of the tide by Cavan was their nine points without reply between first half injury-time and the 23rd minute of the second half.

Although Cavan trailed at the break by six points, they had played quite well, particularly in attack, but the Fermanagh keeper Shea McElroy produced three superb saves to deny Cavan. Cavan were set up to attack the game, playing man-for-man football, with some beautiful individual skill and loads of pace on show.

In the first half, Cian Keaney’s three points were crucial in keeping Cavan in the contest with Lorcan Reilly adding two. When the game was in the melting pot, Reilly showed leadership and confidence to bring Cavan from two points behind to one point in front.

After three minutes, Cavan opened the scoring when a darting run by Michael Smith saw him through on goal but as the ball came loose from his hands he reacted by volleying the ball over the bar. Mattie McDermott replied for Fermanagh with a point before Smith broke through on goal again but this time was denied by the crossbar.

Fermanagh’s counter-attack game plan left an ocean of space in front of their full-forward Cian O’Brien and the Kinawley man thrived, setting up Dylan Boyle for the Ernesiders’ first goal. A Keaney free closed the gap to two points with 10 minutes played but Cavan would have taken back the lead if Shea McElroy hadn’t saved well-placed shots for goal by Keaney and Reilly.

Lorcan Reilly and Ben Warnock traded points but the boys in blue were then reduced to 14 men when Ben Tully was shown a black card by referee Richie Donoghue. Cavan worked hard to not let Fermanagh extend their lead as Tiernan Wray’s point was matched by Lorcan Reilly’s second of the day.

A Matthew Smith free from 46 metres brought Cavan within a point within one minute of Tully’s sin binning ending. Fermanagh, running out of time, bagged their second goal from the resulting kick-out as midfielder Cal McAnespy hit the roof of the net, leaving the score 2-3 to 0-5.

A point for each side from Keaney and Caolán Brennan kept four between the teams with a minute left to the break but a manageable deficit turned more difficult a minute into injury-time as an early ball found Fermanagh’s Cian O’Brien one-on-one with Nathan Levy Valensi and O’Brien’s trickery won out as he converted his side’s third goal. Cavan, crucially, did have time to respond with a Keaney point after a high catch and pass by Michael Smith leaving the half-time score 3-4 to 0-7 to the home side.

Continuing in his fine first-half form, Keaney opened the scoring in the second half with his fourth point on his left foot. With eight minutes played, Niall Magee wisely opted for a safe point with half a goal chance on offer. Two minutes later Reilly converted a free after Keaney was taken down to leave three points between the sides.

With 16 minutes remaining, Cavan continued to control the game as Keaney added a fifth point to his name but this time showing he has a capable right foot too. With the game now in the crucial moments, Lorcan Reilly stepped forward with a converted free and mark and a beautiful long-range point to give Cavan a one-point lead.

Magee fisted over his second point of the day with seven minutes remaining as Cavan’s dominance had left Fermanagh without a score for 26 minutes. After the brilliant Shea McElroy saved a definite goal for a fourth time, a Kealan Fitzpatrick free in injury-time finally ended the home side’s scoring drought.

Cavan minor team v Fermanagh. Photo: Adrian Donohoe. Photo by Adrian Donohoe Photography 0863716199

Cavan, leading by a single point weren’t over the line yet but after Lorcan Reilly’s second trio of points in the game, the Breffni boys held a four-point lead with three minutes of injury -time played. In the middle of those points, Matthew Smith fell to the same fate as others when his shot on goal was saved by McElroy. The final score of the game went to Fermanagh as Mattie McDermott pointed a free before the final whistle sounded.

Cavan will take massive learnings from this tough battle and be happy to not only come away with the win but with the way they had to dig it out from a difficult position. Most of the credit for Fermanagh has to go to keeper McElroy whose heroics stopped this from being very one-sided. Cavan now face Antrim in the qualifier round three this Saturday in Kingspan Breffni (throw-in, 3pm).

Cavan: Cillian Brady, Cian Halton, Nathan Levy Valensi, Cormac Callaghan, Kyle McCabe, Oliver McCrystal, Eanna Ward, Evan Crowe, Niall Magee, Matthew Smith (0-1f), Ben Tully, Michael Smith (0-1), Cian Keaney (0-5, 1f), Cormac Galligan, Lorcan Reilly (0-9, 4f, 1m)

Subs: James Tully for C Galligan, Luke Allison for E Ward, Jake Whyte for C Keaney, Gearoid Lynch for C Callaghan

Fermanagh: Shea McElroy, Oisin Swift, Lanty Feeley, Rees Love, Caolan Brennan (0-1), Liam McEnri, Ben Warnock (0-1), Conor O’Hanlon, Cal McAnespy (1-0), Tiernan Wray (0-1), Mattie McDermott (0-1), Kealan Fitzpatrick (0-1f), Dylan Boyle (1-0), Cian O’Brien (1-0), Michael Burns

Subs: Kai McGoldrick for L McEnri, Luke McAnespy for D Boyle, Ronan Ferguson for O Swift.