Tiarnan Madden breaks from defence as Jonathan Lynam tracks his run.Photo: Adrian Donohoe.

Cavan start the league with an impressive away win

PLATFORM Half backs help tighten up Cavan’s defence, and provide dynamic threat in attack

Cavan got their 2023 league off to a flying start last Sunday when they travelled to Mullingar to face promotion favourites Westmeath. It will never be said but revenge for last year's Tailteann Cup final defeat had to be on the minds of the seven Cavan players who started the last two encounters between the sides.

Cavan definitely played like a team with a point to prove. Their desire to out work the opposition was as impressive as their discipline in the process. Over the 77 minutes played Cavan received no cards of any colour and only conceded three scorable frees of which Westmeath converted two.

Playing against the wind in the first half Cavan went two points down and were conceding the Westmeath kick-outs to their full back line. In a cat and mouse tactical move, Cavan began to press the Westmeath defence and as a result hit four points in a row between the 13th and 29th minutes.

After the break with the wind at their backs Cavan pushed their advantage out to six with another four points on the bounce. Westmeath’s introduction of Luke Loughlin however proved effective, and his driving run was the catalyst for the game's only goal, but after two Lorcan Dolan points, Cavan recovered with a final flurry of three points to seal the victory.

Mickey Graham got his match-ups spot on as debutant Niall Carolan put shackles on Tailteann Cup final man of the match Ronan O’Toole while Evan Finnegan and Padraig Faulkner also won their respective battles. The half back line of Brady, McVeety and Madden defended like warriors but with Oisin Kiernan and Jason McLoughlin back in support they also had the licence to provide the foundation for attack after attack.

It took six minutes for Westmeath to open the scoring when Shane Demspey was fouled and John Heslin sent over the resulting free. On the 12th minute Dempsey doubled the home lead when he gathered a well placed kick pass before hooking over the bar off his right.

A minute later Cian Madden was taken down when he looked to be in on goal. He had been found in space by Oisin Brady's brilliantly judged long range pass which cleared the Westmeath defence. Brady converted the free to get Cavan up and running.

With Cavan on the counter attack Ciaran Brady won a free on the 45 meter line and Ray Galligan made no mistake with the resulting free kick into the wind.


With the sides level, the Cavan half-back line produced the best score of the half. Quick hands by Tiarnan Madden got the ball out of trouble and into possession of Ciaran Brady steaming through like a train. As the Arva man entered the scoring zone Westmeath rushed to block his shot but Dara McVeety appeared on his shoulder at the perfect moment to both take the pass and the score in one swift movement.

A gliding run by Niall Carolan through the Westmeath defence set up Ryan O’Neill for a well taken point with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half. Ronan O’Toole ended a 21 minute spell without a score for the home fans to cheer, reducing Cavan’s lead to one. Two minutes into first half injury time McVeety and Faulkner combined with Martin Reilly, who hooked the ball over the bar. With a two point lead, and the promise of a wind-assisted second half Cavan went into the break happy.


With Westmeath set up to play a mass defence and counter attacking game in the second half, Cavan showed commendable patience in their first attack. Possession was retained for a little over a minute when McVeety broke into the scoring zone to sail the ball over the bar.

Westmeath wing forward Sam McCartan was then shown a black card for an off the ball challenge on McVeety. In the ensuing ten minutes Cavan took full advantage, adding three more unanswered points. Two long range frees from Ray Galligan and a second point from McVeety saw Cavan lead by six points with 15 minutes remaining.


In a bid to turn momentum Dessie Dolan produced his trump cards of Luke Loughlin and Lorcan Dolan. The duo did strengthen their attacking hand.

A driving run down the sideline by Loughlin saw him barge past Padraig Faulkner and cut in along the end line before lobbing a fist pass to the back post where Ronan Wallace palmed the ball into the net. It was then Lorcan Dolan's turn, and he added two points from play as Cavan wobbled with only the minimum between the sides, and seven minutes remaining.

Cavan dearly needed inspiration and Ciaran Brady came up with the goods; one of his many driving runs resulted in a free which Oisin Brady calmly slotted over. Brady was again on hand to gather an attacking mark and the result was the same, restoring Cavan's three point lead.

As the game entered the home straight a searching long ball bounced off the chest of Enda Maguire and fortuitously landed in the hands of Padraig Faulkner, whose galloping run brought him in front of goal from where he tapped over an insurance point.

With four points between the sides John Heslin, who was well marshalled by Faulkner, book ended Westmeath’s scores for the day with a 20 meter free.

Westmeath team: Jason Daly, Daniel Scahill, Kevin Maguire, Jamie Gonoud, James Dolan, Ronan Wallace(1-0), Nigel Harte, Conor McCormick, Anthony McGivney, Sam McCartan, Ronan O’Toole(0-1), John Heslin(0-2f), Jonathan Lynam, Robbie Forde, Shane Dempsey(0-1).

Subs: David Giles for J Gonoud, Luke Loughlin for R Forde, Ray Connellan for A McGivney, Lorcan Dolan(0-2) for S Dempsey, David Lynch for J Lynam.

Cavan team: Raymond Galligan(0-3f), Evan Finnegan, Padraig Faulkner(0-1), Niall Carolan, Ciaran Brady(0-1m), Dara McVeety(0-2), Tiarnan Madden, Conor Brady, Killian Clarke, Oisin Kiernan, Cian Madden, Jason McLoughlin, Martin Reilly(0-1), Ryan O’Neill(0-2,1m), Oisin Brady(0-2f).

Subs: Enda Maguire for C Brady, Paddy Lynch for M Reilly, Jonathan McCabe for C Madden, Brandon Boylan for R O’Neill, Conor Madden for O Brady.