Ladies fall to Down in championship opener

All-Ireland Ladies IFC round 1

Cavan 0-9

Down 1-13

Aideen Coyle at Max McGrath Park

Cavan and Down met on Sunday in the opening round of the All-Ireland series, the second meeting between the sides this season. The teams met six weeks prior in the Ulster championship with Down running out comfortable winners over Cavan before later going on to lift the provincial title so revenge was the aim for Mickey O’Rourke’s charges.

In the event, Niamh King was outstanding on the day, finishing with 1-4, as the Ulster intermediate champions led for the entirety of the tie. Down led by six at the break and maintained that lead into the second half with an injury-time goal from King sealing the victory for the visitors after a spirited second-half performance from the Breffni ladies.

The Mourne county opened the game with a point from Niamh McClory two minutes in. Five minutes later, Evelyn Baugh pulled off a fantastic save, directing Sarah Dougherty’s goalward shot over the crossbar.

Sinead Levingstone pointed at the other end to open Cavan’s account and reduce the deficit to one. However, a five-minute spell of excellence from Down saw them register four quickfire points to open up a lead which proved impossible for Cavan to claw back.

Vivienne McCormack pointed, followed quickly by Laoise Duffy’s opening score of the game. The visitors pressed Cavan’s kick-out and reaped the rewards with two more from Niamh King and McCormack stretching their lead to five midway through the half. The lead could have been greater but for another outstanding save by Baugh who got down low to keep out King’s effort at goal.

Ally Cahill drives forward for Cavan as Sarah Dougherty challenges. Photo by Adrian Donohoe Photography 0863716199

Cavan made the perfect reply with two points of their own after excellent play from the hardworking Christina Charters, Zara Fay and Ally Cahill. Cahill pointed Cavan’s second after a superb pass from Charters cut open the Down defence. Moments later, Levingstone converted a close-range free following a foul on Cahill who brilliantly drove through the Down backline to leave three between the sides.

However, Down finished the half strongest with three more on the trot to lead 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time in Redhills. King pointed a free before hitting a spectacular long-range effort from play and the final score of the half fell to corner-back Aimee Greene.

Cavan made two changes at the break with Sarah McCabe and Niamh McCorry coming into the fray and the hosts started brightly, hitting the opening score of the half seconds after the resumption. Levingstone ran at the Down backline, was fouled, and converted her own free. However, the visitors hit back with three to make the comeback more difficult. Duffy hit two, minutes apart, with an effort from King leaving the deficit at eight.

Thirteen minutes after their opener, Cahill pointed a much-needed score for her side. Five minutes after that, McCorry converted another after excellent build-up play from Áine Smith, who was introduced for Amy Wharton. Cavan, similarly to the opening half, enjoyed long spells of possession but struggled to break through a well-organised and congested Down backline, with scores being at a premium. McCorry pointed a free following another foul on Levingstone to bridge the gap to five.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Charters bravely and superbly blocked a shot from Down substitute Niamh Rice to keep Cavan in it.

Duffy’s fourth score of the match ended Down’s drought as over 20 minutes had elapsed without a score. Cavan replied instantly with Sarah McCabe hitting an outstanding point from a difficult angle. However, with Cavan continuing to chase the tie Down sealed the victory in injury time as the in-form King hit the Cavan net after a mistake in the Cavan backline. The final score of the game went to Killygarry clubwoman Levingstone as Cavan fell to a defeat.

Cavan have a bye next weekend before facing Westmeath on Sunday June 16 in a crucial clash with a spot in the quarter-finals still to be played for.

Cavan: Evelyn Baugh, Niamh Smith, Aine Brady (C), Niamh Briody, Kaioni Tuipulotu, Roisin Dolan, Christina Charters, Ciara Brady, Ruth Gilsenan, Zara Fay, Amy Wharton, Rebecca McLoughlin, Erin Longair, Ally Cahill 0-02, Sinead Levingstone 0-04 (3f)

Subs: Niamh McCorry 0-02 (1f) for E. Longair, Sarah McCabe 0-01 for R. McLoughlin, Aine Smith for A. Wharton, Hannah Gilsenan for R. Gilsenan, Molly Smith for Z. Fay

Down: Amy McGivern, Aimee Greene 0-01, Ciara Byrne, Erin Sands, Clara Mulvenna, Natalie McKibbin, Orla Duffy, Megan Doherty, Eimear Fitzpatrick, Niamh Scullion, Niamh King 1-04 (2f), Laoise Duffy 0-04, Niamh McClory 0-01, Sarah Dougherty 0-01, Vivienne McCormack 0-02

Subs: Aimee O’Higgins for V. McCormack, Niamh Rice for S. Dougherty, Aoife Laverty for N. Scullion

Ref: David Hurson (Monaghan)