at Cusack Park, Ennis
A late free from Bryan Magee secured a draw for a new-look Cavan side in their Allianz Football League opener against Clare in Ennis.
Despite getting off to a dream start when Caoímhín O’Reilly smashed to the roof of the net after just 50 seconds, Cavan struggled for long periods of the first half and only really came to life in the final quarter when, backed by the wind, they turned the game on its head with 1-2 in a three-minute spell.
O’Reilly’s goal, superbly finished and wonderfully created by Dara McVeety, was quickly cancelled out by points from Eoin Cleary and Keelan Sexton and although Magee tacked on a free in the 10th minute to edge Cavan back in front, Cavan goalkeeper Ray Galligan made an uncharacteristic error at the other end, allowing Eimhin Courtney to stroke the ball into an empty net.
By half-time, Clare were well in control at 1-7 to 1-2 but the introduction of Cian Mackey from the bench lent some much-needed creativity to the Cavan attack and with Conor Moynagh doing well at the back, they had a more solid look about them after the break.
Mackey made an immediate impression, kicking two excellent points in the seventh and eighth minutes of the half but Clare were still dominant around the middle, where Gary Brennan and Cathal O’Connor had the upper hand, and they eased into a 1-10 to 1-4 lead.
And then, in the 51st minute, the contest was turned on its head. After Mackey’s shot was blocked, McVeety rose highest to fist to the net. From the kick-out, the Breffni men attacked again and Ciaran Brady curled in left-footed and when Cavan won another restart and Thomas Galligan swung in a huge point, suddenly the visitors were just a point in arrears.
Cavan’s cause was helped when Brennan was deservedly black-carded and Mattie McGleenan’s side were soon level when McVeety linked up with Magee and the captain kicked a fantastic score from a tight angle.
Mackey set clubmate Oisin Kiernan up for the lead score but this was cancelled out by Cleary at the other end. Cavan had a chance to win it only for Padraig Faulkner’s shot to rebound off the upright and from the break, Sexton edged Clare in front.
But, with time almost up, Magee held his nerve and slotted over a tricky free to ensure a draw.
Scorers - Clare: E Cleary 0-4 (2fs); E Courtney 1-0; G O'Brien, C Finnucane, K Sexton 0-2 each; G Brennan (f), C O'Connor 0-1 each. Cavan: C O'Reilly (1f) and D McVeety 1-1; C Mackey, B Magee 0-2 each; C Brady, A Cole, A Kiernan 0-1 each.
Clare: K Roche; C O'Dea, C Brennan, G Kelly; J Malone, C Russell, P Lillis; G Brennan (capt), C O'Connor; A Sweeney, E Cleary, G O'Brien; E Courtney, K Sexton, C Finnucane. Subs: D Bohannon for G Brennan (BC, 59), K Malone for Sweeney (60), S O'Donoghue for Courtney (65),C Brady for McKiernan (69).
Cavan: R Galligan; D Monahan, P Faulkner, D Phillips; D Kennedy, C Brady, O Kiernan; K Clarke, J Wharton; E Flanagan, D McVeety (capt), D Brady; C O'Reilly, B Magee, C Madden. Subs: C Moynagh for Wharton (23), C Mackey for Kennedy (h-t), N McKiernan for Madden (h-t), A Cole for D Brady (41), R Connolly for O'Reilly (64).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)