Cavan hang on to reach Tailteann Cup final
Tailteann Cup semi-final
Paul Fitzpatrick at Croke Park
Cavan held on, just about, to make the Tailteann Cup final after a nerve-wracking finale against Sligo in this afternoon’s semi-final.
At half-time, Cavan were in charge at 0-11 to 1-3 but had lived dangerously at times and that trend continued in the second half; Oisin Kiernan twice saved Cavan with goal-line clearances while Sligo also hit the upright twice and the crossbar.
Early on, it was all so different as the hot pre-match favourites lived up to their billing, cruising into a 0-6 to 0-0 lead after 14 minutes.
Martin Reilly, who was forced off injured before half-time, opened the scoring with a right-footed effort and further scores from James, who excelled as a target man, Thomas Galligan, Oisin Kiernan, Paddy Lynch and a lovely effort from Conor Brady saw Cavan completely in command.
Extraordinarily, their 11 first-half points were landed by 11 different players – but once Sligo got off the mark through Pat Spillane after 15 minutes, the Yeats men competed strongly. In fact, they should have been closer at the break, having spurned eight good scoring opportunities.
A cool penalty from Patrick O’Connor in the 20th minute, after Luke Towey had been felled by Gerry Smith, dragged them back into contention. Killian Brady landed a rare score – and a quality one – but Pat Hughes and Darragh Cummins both registered to cut the gap to a point on 27 minutes.
After a clever ball from Alan Reilly, O’Connor then struck the crossbar. Ray Galligan, with a 45-metre free, and the brilliant Gerry Smith were next to raise white flags but Sligo almost got in again, with Kiernan stopping Mikey Gordon’s effort, again after a clever Reilly pass.
Gerry Smith set Gearoid McKiernan up for the next and the outstanding Jason McLoughlin teed sub Cian Madden up for his first as Cavan went in five ahead.
Sligo introduced star attacker Niall Murphy at half-time and he caused Cavan a lot of problems. Murphy pointed with his first touch and repeated the trick with his second.
McKiernan, who picked up the Man of the Match award, spurned a goal chance and when Spillane galloped through to score, Sligo had their tails up and momentum on their side.
A McKiernan free was cancelled out by O’Connor and when Clarke became Cavan’s 12th scorer and James Smith drilled over from a tight angle, Cavan were four to the good again.
But Mickey Graham’s men just couldn’t shake Sligo off. The Connacht side pressed high and went for it but were guilty of poor shooting on the run-in.
A Sean Carrabine free, after a foul on Murphy, was followed another well-taken Madden point.
Carrabine and Gerry Smith exchanged scores from play as Sligo kept coming, O’Connor converting a mark and Kiernan then clearing off the line again, with Murphy pointing the rebound.
McKiernan fisted over a point but former International Rules player Murphy again clipped over. Gerry Smith landed the next two, in the 65th and 72nd minutes, either side of two poor Sligo wides. Sligo had another wide deep in injury time and when Alan Reilly and Carrabine (free) scored, Cavan were two up and hanging on for dear life.
But Gerry Smith again stepped up to ease them home, playing a one-two with clubmate Chris Conroy and splitting the posts as Cavan, despite playing some very good football at times, just got over the line.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-1f), Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Killian Brady (0-1), Ciaran Brady, Kilian Clarke (0-1), Conor Brady (0-1), Thomas Galligan (0-1), James Smith (0-2), Oisin Kiernan (0-1), Gearoid McKiernan (0-4, 3f), Gerard Smith (0-4), Martin Reilly (0-1), Paddy Lynch (0-1), Stephen Smith
Subs: Cian Madden (0-2) for Reilly (31 mins), Oisin Brady for S Smith (58), Conor Moynagh for K Brady (67), Luke Fortune for C Brady (68), Chris Conroy for Lynch (75)
Sligo: Aidan Devaney, Nathan Mullen, Evan Lyons, Paul McNamara, Luke Towey, Darragh Cummins (0-1), Paul Kilcoyne, Peter Laffey, Pat Spillane (0-2), Mikey Gordon, Alan Reilly (0-1), Keelan Cawley, Sean Carrabine (0-3, 2f), Pat Hughes (0-1), Patrick O’Connor (1-2, 1-0 pen, 1m)
Sub: Niall Murphy (0-4) for Hughes (ht), Mark Walsh for K Cawley (53 mins), David Quinn for D Cummins (62), Conor Griffin for Laffey (63), Donal Conlon for Spillane (70)
Ref: Fergal Kely (Longford)