Hurlers denied at the death by Leitrim
Lory Meagher Cup round 5
Kevin Óg Carney at Kingspan Breffni
Newly-crowned NHL Division 3B champions Cavan agonisingly lost out on a place in the Lory Meagher Cup (championship) decider after a dramatic final round game at Kingspan Breffni on Saturday afternoon last.
Pitched against the team they had defeated just last month to win the league title, Cavan looked set to celebrate their second trip to the Cup final at Croke Park in three years only to concede what turned out to be the winning point in the dying seconds of added-on time at the end of the game.
Cavan led for most of the match and looked to have bagged the draw that would have spirited them into the decider after Diarmaid Carney’s 72nd minute effort made it all-square.
However, less than one minute later, Leitrim produced a sting in their tail with Enda Moreton emerging from a ruck to arrow over the winner.
Moreton’s heroics wasn’t enough to impact Leitrim’s fate but the visitors got their revenge and celebrated it wildly at the climax of the game.
Cavan can count themselves very unlucky not to have won their ticket back to HQ.
That said, they did make life hard for themselves after an unfamiliar bright start which seemed to be the portents of a great day at the office.
Sadly, the Blues were forced to play with 14 men for 39 minutes after in-form attacker Nicky Kenny received a straight red card after 18 minutes.
Kenny, Cavan’s top scorer this year from open play, was adjudged to have jutted his head against the helmet of his opponent and his loss to the hosts proved to be immeasurable on what was a sultry, balmy afternoon and the provider of an acid test of a team’s fitness.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Cavan played some fine hurling to consolidate Sean Keating’s quick-fire opening goal which fairly rocked the westerners onto their heels.
Great solo points from the likes of Jack Barry and Mark Moffett helped Cavan forge a 1-4 to 0-2 lead after 11 minutes and, it seemed, everything was going swimmingly for the hosts.
However, Leitrim travelled with intent, naked enthusiasm and plenty of belief and ambition.
With team-captain and centre-back Martin Feeney getting hoovering up a lot of ball as his team’s sweeper, Cavan didn’t help themselves by ‘feeding’ Feeney with some aimless and careless clearances out of defence.
And the Connachtmen got a real leg-up in their game of catch-up in the 31st minute when Gavin O’Brien goaled after Cavan failed to clear their lines.
Leitrim produced another decent goal chance less than one minute later when strapping full-forward Colm Moreton (a late call-up) fired over, instead of under, Darren Sheridan’s crossbar.
Leitrim had better luck in the 34th minute when Martin Feeney’s long delivery sailed all the way to the Cavan net.
Cavan refused to panic though and Canice Maher’s major – after great work by Mark Moffett – drew Cavan level (2-7 apiece) at the interval.
Cavan later went 2-11 to 2-8 in front but Paul Lenehan’s gem (48) left the sides tied (2-12 apiece) once more.
As the tension increased, Leitrim had Colm Moreton dismissed in the 57th minute for a second yellow card and, in the follow-up, Olcan Conway, the Leitrim team-manager was also red carded.
Leitrim looked shoo-ins to win after going 2-18 to 2-13 in front on the hour mark but Cavan hit five unanswered points – including a gem (64) from Rían Delaney - and then came Carney's leveller which looked like Cavan's ticket into the final.
However, a dramatic finale was to ensue as Leitrim struck at the death to rain on the blues’ parade with Moreton striking a fatal blow to Cavan’s Croke Park dreams.
Cavan: Darren Sheridan; Shane Briody, Enda Shalvey, Matthew Hynes; Diarmaid Carney (0-2), Colum Sheanon, Cillian Sheanon (0-2); Jack Barry (0-1), Liam Óg Cooke;Dillon Mulligan, Seán Keating (1-1), Thomas Leonard (0-1); Mark Moffett (0-1), Canice Maher (1-9, 9f), Nicky Kenny.
Subs: Caoimhín Carney for L Óg Cooke; Rían Delaney (0-1) for T Leonard; Philip McCabe for S Briody (inj).
Leitrim: Clement Cunniffe (0-2, 2f); Enda Moreton (0-1), Jerome Fitzgibbon, Paul Lenehan (0-2); Stephen Goldrick, Martin Feeney (1-3), David McGovern; Senan Keane, Gavin O’Hagan (0-2); Gavin O’Brien (1-1), Joe Murray (0-4,3f), Seán O Riordáin; Colm Moreton(0-2), Conor Beirne, Brendan Delaney (0-1) .
Subs; Seán Markham for S Keane; James McNabola (0-1) for S O Riordáin.