Cavan beaten by Fermanagh in final round of league

NFL Division 2 round 7

Cavan 1-13

Fermanagh 2-14

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

For the second year in succession, Fermanagh came away from Kingspan Breffni with both points but, this time, it wasn’t enough to save their Division 2 status.

A superb performance from full-forward Garvan Jones, who finished with 1-8 (1-7 from play), was key as the away side picked up their second victory of the campaign – but it was all in vain as Louth’s win over Kildare condemned Kieran Donnelly’s men to relegation.

Fermanagh, despite kicking seven wides, went in holding a 1-6 to 0-4 lead and they were value for it. With captain Declan McCusker causing problems and full-forward Garvan Jones landing four good points from play, the Erne men – scrapping for their lives – were dominant.

From early on, the tone was set. Before a small and muted home crowd, Fermanagh were out-working a Cavan side who came into the game with nothing to play for only pride and avoiding the prospect of going into the championship against Monaghan in two weeks without a win in three matches.

Jones opened the scoring with a well-taken free before adding one from play following good work from St Pat’s MacRory Cup-winning joint-captain Cian McManus.

Cavan, who had only hit the net in one of the previous six matches in the campaign, struggled to break down a well-organised Fermanagh attack and, on kick-outs, found it difficult to win primary possession.

While Paddy Lynch levelled matters with a free and a mark, quality scores from McCusker and Jones doubled the visitors’ advantage.

Lynch pointed a free after clubmate Dara McVeety was fouled pulling the trigger but Jones again fired over and then, five minutes before the break, found Sean Cassidy with a perfect pass and the corner-forward blasted to the roof of the net.

Conor Rehill replied from long range with Cavan’s only score from play of the half but when Ronan McCaffrey’s pace took him clear and he fisted over, Kieran Donnelly’s men held a deserving five-point lead at the midway point.

Cavan made three changes at half-time and after an inspid third quarter, there was more impetus about them late on. A brilliantly-taken Paddy Lynch goal helped cut the gap to three approaching the home stretch but Fermanagh weathered the storm.

Jones was always an outlet, especially on the break, and they could have run in another goal, spurning a goal chance when a pass aimed for speedster Ultan Kelm for a back post tap-in was slightly off.

A free from Sean Cassidy and another quality McCusker effort made it 1-8 to 0-4 and when Jones, in acres of space, slotted home, it was 2-8 to 0-5 in favour of the away side with eight second-half minutes played.

Lynch (free) and Cian Madden (mark) registered, either side of a Fionán O’Brien effort, before Cavan belatedly got going, James Smith curling over after a brave fetch from Conor Rehill and then Lynch blasting to the top corner from a tight angle.

Jones and O’Brien fired over two more, though, as Fermanagh halted the Blues’ momentum.

Lynch, Smith and Cormac O’Reilly landed three in a row to bring Cavan back within a goal but Fermanagh matched them from there to the long whistle.

While the win wasn’t enough to keep Fermanagh up, it’s a real confidence-booster ahead of championship while, for Cavan, there are now more questions than answers with Monaghan looming large in two weeks’ time.

Cavan: Gary O’Rourke, Cian Reilly, Brían O’Connell, Luke Fortune, Ciaran Brady, Conor Rehill (0-1), Niall Carolan, James Smith (0-2), Killian Clarke, Dara McVeety, Oisin Brady, Oisin Kiernan, Ryan O’Neill, Paddy Lynch (1-7, 5f, 1m, 45), Caoimhin O’Reilly

Subs: Cormac O’Reilly (0-1) for R O’Neill (17), Conor Brady for K Clarke, Cian Madden (0-2, 1m) for Caoimhin O’Reilly, Tiarnan Madden for O Kiernan (all ht), Paddy Meade for L Fortune (67)

Fermanagh: Ross Bogue, Lee Cullen, Che Cullen, Oisin Smyth, Declan McCusker (0-2), Shane McGullion, Cian McManus, Fionán O’Brien (0-2), Joe McDade, Conor McGee, Conor McShea, Ronan McCaffrey (0-1), Ultan Kelm, Garvan Jones (1-8, 1f), Sean Cassidy (1-1, 1f)

Subs: Josh Largo-Ellis for C McManus (temp 20, reversed 23), J Largo-Ellis for R McCaffrey (47), B Horan for C McManus (59), Diarmuid King for S Cassidy (63), Oisin Murphy for D McCusker (65)

Ref: Kieran Eannetta (Tyrone)