Cavan's brilliant late flurry blitzes Down
NFL Division 3 Round 5
Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni
Promotion is almost a mathematical certainty for Cavan after an impressive late blitz saw Mickey Graham’s run out comfortable winners after a stern test from a fired-up Down side.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, it was a three-point game but Cavan turned on the burners in impressive fashion, Paddy Lynch rattling two late goals as they won pulling up.
Cavan came into this match as favourites, with a perfect record from their first four matches. The last time the sides met was in the Tailteann Cup last summer at the same venue; on that occasion, the sun shone and Cavan registered 0-24.
It quickly became apparent that there would be no repeat of that from either team, the skies opened half an hour before throw-in and Down set out their stall early, with 15 men behind the ball. Cavan mirrored this approach and it made for a poor spectacle, despite the full-blooded nature of the contest.
Down hit the jackpot three minutes in when they picked the Breffni defensive padlock, Liam Kerr playing in Donnacha McAleese, who buried his shot to the bottom corner.
It took Cavan another five minutes to open their account, captain Ray Galligan sending over a 45-metre free after Padraig Faulkner was fouled but Down quickly raised a white flag at the other end through Pat Havern after a fast break.
A great strike from Dara McVeety (mark) and a Paddy Lynch free, after a foul on Cian Madden, saw Cavan draw level on 28 minutes but Down led again via an Andrew Gilmore free.
Cavan landed their first score from play when Cian Madden fired over as the clock ticked down to half-time and the Breffni men survived a scare in injury time when a great move through the centre produced their third clear-cut goal chance but saw Patrick Branagan inches shoot wide of the top corner.
The temperature went up another notch when an altercation in front of the tunnel as the teams went in at the interval ignited the crowd. Cavan introduced James Smith at half-time and the big midfielder would go on to play an integral role.
He won the throw-up and drove through the middle for the opening chance, Cian Madden supplying the finish as Cavan hit the front for the first time. Brandon Boylan then did well to win primary possession, resulting in a free for clubmate Lynch and when Lynch knocked over another after a stirring run from the excellent Padraig Faulkner, Cavan were three up and had all the momentum.
Andrew Gilmore replied with a free but Cavan quickly cancelled it out when McVeety, who spent periods in the full-forward line, conjured a point from nothing.
Two for Pat Havern (one free) cut the gap to one but a Brandon Boylan fisted effort and a mark, after a towering catch by sub Gearoid McKiernan from Faulkner’s delivery, made it 0-11 to 1-5 as Cavan stretched their legs.
And when Ciaran Brady thundered out of defence and James Smith hooked over, they had one foot in Division 2. A mark from Donnacha McAleese momentarily stopped the bleeding but Cavan bit between their teeth.
McKiernan and Lynch combined for the latter to smash a great finish to the bottom corner; he then added one from play as Cavan began to pick Down off at will on the break. McKiernan got in on the act and with time almost up, Down were caught pushing up and Conor Madden and McKiernan assisted Lynch, who walked it into the net to put the seal on a fifth successive victory.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-1f), Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Niall Carolan, Ciaran Brady, Dara McVeety (0-2, 1m), Tiarnan Madden, David Brady, Killian Clarke, Gerard Smith, Cian Madden (0-2), Jonathan McCabe, Paddy Lynch (2-5, 4f), Ryan O’Neill, Brandon Boylan (0-1)
Subs: James Smith (0-1) for D Brady (ht), Gearoid McKiernan (0-2, 1m) for R O’Neill (48 mins), Stephen Smith for J McCabe (56), Conor Madden for Boylan (65), Cian Reilly for D McVeety (68)
Down: Charlie Smyth, Conor Fitzpatrick, Ryan McEvoy (0-1f), Pierce Laverty, Ryan Magill, Ceilum Doherty, Patrick Branagan, Peter Fegan, Odhran Murdock, Gerard Collins, Liam Kerr, Micheál Rooney (1-0), Andrew Gilmore (0-3f), Pat Havern (0-5, 3f), Donnacha McAleese (0-1m)
Subs: Anthony Morgan for G Collins (25 mins), Ryan Johnston for C Fitzpatrick (41 mins), Jerome Johnston for P Branagan (46), Conor Francie for M Rooney (54), Eugene Branagan for A Morgan (62)
Ref: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)