at Woodlands, Belfast
Cavan slipped to a disappointing defeat against Antrim in their second McKenna Cup match of the season this afternoon on the 4G pitch at Woodlands in west Belfast.
After finishing strongly to see off St Mary’s last Wednesday, Cavan came into this game with confidence against an Antrim side who had been beaten 4-20 to 2-11 by Tyrone in mid-week.
However, despite getting off to a blistering start when Cuchulainns man Bryan Magee fired over a free and palmed in a goal within the first minute, Cavan’s defence struggled with Antrim’s direct running and they were soon on the back foot.
While Cavan are minus the services of key men such as Gearoid McKiernan, Martin Reilly, Dara McVeety and Killian Clarke at present, they will nevertheless surely not be happy to lose this game, especially with the Red Hands - competition specialists - coming to town in three days' time.
Paddy McBride and the excellent Conor Murray got the hosts up and running and although Oisin Kiernan replied for Cavan, Antrim landed 1-3 unanswered – McBride tucking away the goal – to move three clear.
By that stage, the Saffrons had also struck the crossbar and the side netting as Cavan -experimenting with a man-for-man defence – began to send out distress flares at the back.
Magee pulled back a free but Antrim soon broke through for a second goal when Murray smashed to the roof of the net on 23 minutes.
By half-time, the Blues were a goal in arrears (2-6 to 1-6) after two well-taken Niall McKiernan points and an Oisin Kiernan free, with Murray landing Antrim’s sixth on the stroke of half-time after a well-worked set piece.
On the restart, Mattie McGleenan’s men were a different team. Their work-rate increased considerably as they pinned Antrim back for long periods of the third quarter – and they were rewarded with points from sub Niall Clerkin and a super Magee free.
However, on a rare breakaway, Antrim pounced, right on the 45-minute mark, when a hopeful punt fell their way and they capitalised with a neat move which was coolly finished to the net by Ryan Murray.
That made it 3-6 to 1-8 and although Cavan responded with a point from Conor Bradley – after an Ado Cole lay-off – the fourth goal arrived seconds later when Conor Murray combined well with Matthew Fitzpatrick and tucked away low past Ray Galligan.
That seemed to be that but Cavan, to their credit, got to work again, Magee (free) trading a point with Conor Murray before sub Enda Flanagan and Padraig Faulkner combined to set Niall McKiernan up for a brilliantly-taken goal.
Flanagan was making a big impact and he kicked a fantastic point, only for Mark Sweeney to cancel it out. Sub Conor Brady registered a point, Flanagan landed another and when Magee nailed a free, it was a one-point game again, 2-14 to 4-9.
The young Cuchulainns man, who had a good game at midfield, saw a relatively straighrforward free-kick drift wide moments later however and after weathering a storm, Antrim broke out again, with McBride putting the seal on it with a sweet point from the right.
*Full report in Wednesday’s print issue