Stalemate as McIntyre's late point forces replay

Senior Football Championship quarter-final

Cavan Gaels 1-12

Gowna 1-12

Defender Evan McIntyre was the saviour for Cavan Gaels as his injury-time point secured a draw in this dramatic Senior Championship quarter-final.

This was a match full of mistakes and sloppy play but in terms of full-blooded championship battles between these two old rivals, it was a classic of the genre. No quarter asked, none given.

Gowna came from six down to lead by two but squandered numerous good chances and Cavan Gaels came up with the final two scores to force a replay.

This was a slow-burner of a contest which ignited in the second half, with running battles all over the pitch, several of which spilled over in a couple of flash points.

The Gaels were the better side in the first half, at the end of which they held a two-point lead, 0-7 to 0-5 – and they had the numerical advantage, too, with Gowna’s Ryan Brady picking up a straight red card 20 minutes in.

The first half, while intense and ferociously physical at times, was of a poor enough standard, with the each side kicking four wides and Gowna, who made a lot of poor decisions in attack, also guilty of dropping three shots short.

At the back, Gowna’s tackling was poor; they gave away four scoreable frees and Cavan Gaels nailed them all to move into that deserved lead at the break.

Conor Madden had the first chance of the match but saw his shot rebound off the upright; at the other end, Paul Graham fired over from 30 metres to open the town club’s account.

Ryan Brady nudged Gowna into the lead with two well-taken scores from play, the first after a Fonán Brady turnover, but a free from Gearoid McKiernan, which he won himself, levelled matters on six minutes.

Wides from Ryan Donohoe and Mark McKeever, both poorly struck, followed and the Gaels punished Gowna when McKiernan gathered and converted a mark after a lovely floated pass from Declan Meehan.

Gowna continued to carve out chances but both Conor Casey and Robbie Fitzpatrick’s efforts were weak and fell into goalkeeper Ciaran Flynn’s hands. Again, the Gaels took advantage; after Luke Fortune was fouled late, McKiernan knocked over a free to make it 0-4 to 0-2 on the quarter-hour mark.

Donohoe sent over a badly-needed point for Gowna but, after a Kevin Meehan wide, the Gaels kept the scoreboard ticking over with a trademark McKiernan point, on the loop, this time off the right.

Gowna’s best score of the half came when Conor Madden picked out Robbie Fitzpatrick, who belted over – but they continued to miss chances and were reduced to 14 men when Ryan Brady was dismissed for an off-the-ball tangle with McKiernan.

Declan Meehan won and converted a free; Cian Madden responded in kind before both sides registered further wides in the run-up to half-time.

Just before the resumption, a couple of scuffles broke out as tensions ran high. The Gaels pushed on with a free from McKiernan and then an excellent point from the same man after he robbed possession with a textbook turnover of Cormac Brady.

That made it 0-9 to 0-5 and although Fitzpatrick hit back with a super score, when Gowna goalkeeper Ronan Bannon allowed a tame Kevin Meehan shot to slip through his hands, Jason O’Reilly’s side were 1-9 to 0-6 ahead and very much in the driving seat.

But Gowna dug deep for the final 20 minutes (plus five minutes of injury time), with Conor Brady outstanding as they fought to keep their season alive.

After Cian Madden and McKiernan exchanged frees, Conor Brady broke the line and drove over a point. Ryan Donohoe did well to win a free which Tiernan Madden curled over from the wing and, crucially, the Gaels were then reduced to 14 as well when Paul Graham picked up a black card in the 45th minute.

Gowna now had momentum and they capitalised when Conor Brady sent in a perfect pass and Fitzpatrick showed a poacher’s instinct to flick to the net.

Moments later, Eoghan Hartin found himself one on one but his effort was weak. Gowna had the bit between their teeth but their finishing was dreadful – they kicked three points in succession from Fitzpatrick (free), Conor Brady and Cian Madden (free) to move 1-12 to 1-10 in front but they couldn’t push on.

The Gaels hung tough; when sub Jack Tully’s shot dropped short, Luke Molloy got a hand to it and turned it over the bar. And then, two minutes into injury time, defender Evan McIntyre strode forward to fire over the equaliser.

The closing stages were frantic but the best chances fell to Gowna. Conor Madden was off target and, with the last kick, Ryan Donohoe’s 50-metre free drifted to the left and wide. Stalemate – the sides will do it all again in a week’s time.

Cavan Gaels: Ciaran Flynn, John Fortune, Barry Fortune, Padraig Sexton, Levi Murphy, Niall Murray, Robert Maloney-Derham, Paul Graham (0-1), Evaan Fortune, Luke Fortune, Keenan Donohoe, Paul O’Connor, Kevin Meehan (1-0), Declan Meehan (0-1f), Gearoid McKiernan (0-8, 5f, 1m)

Subs: Luke Molloy (0-1) for E Fortune (23 mins), Evan McIntyre (0-1) for J Fortune (ht, inj.), Andrew Graham for K Donohoe (38), Jack Tully for D Meehan (51)

Gowna: Ronan Bannon, Cormac Brady, Ryan Brady (0-2), Ryan McGahern, Fionán Brady, Conor Brady (0-2), Tiernan Madden (0-1f), Ryan Donohoe (0-1), Robbie Fitzpatrick (1-3, 1f), Mark McKeever, Conor Casey, Cian Madden (0-3f), Eoghan Hartin, Conor Madden, Daire Madden

Subs: Aaron Brady for C Casey (32 mins), Oisin Fleming for D Madden (39), Oisin Pierson for Fleming (53)

Ref: Joe McQuillan