at Kingspan Breffni
Cavan’s hopes of returning to the top flight of the Allianz Leagues were boosted considerably when they leapfrogged their way to the top of the table with a superb victory over local rivals Meath.
In an eventful, oft-times feisty battle (which spilled over to the crowd at one stage with the Gardaí accompanying a Meath fan out of the stand in the second half), Cavan were the better side, bossing most of the physical exchanges and, crucially, full of creativity in attack.
In contrast, Meath seemed out of ideas in front of goal from early on and that ultimately proved to be their undoing, although they did kick some high quality scores, especially in the second half.
Cavan dominated for long spells to extend their unbeaten run to three games, with Dara McVeety, Caoimhin O’Reilly and Niall Clerkin excellent up front and half-time subs Gearoid McKiernan and Cian Mackey re-energising the side for the second half.
Butlersbridge man O’Reilly, who is not yet 22 but developing into a go-to man for the Breffni boys, opened the scoring with a trademark left-footed effort.
Speedster Eamon Wallace responded with an excellent point for Meath, running a gauntlet through the massed Breffni defence, but the home side would kick six points in succession in the following 19 minutes.
From a tight angle, O’Reilly curled in his second before Bryan Magee kicked a 47-metre free and after good work from Conor Moynagh, Niall Clerkin curled in Cavan’s fourth.
The Shercock clubman quickly added another, Adrian Cole made it six and when the big full-forward laid off for the lively Dara McVeety to slot over, Mattie McGleenan’s men were cruising.
The Royals, bunched up between the 45 and 20-metre lines, seemed devoid of ideas in attack. They picked off a rare point through Graham Reilly but any hope of a revival was dashed when Conor Moynagh reacted smartly when the ball broke off the upright and tucked away a neat finish to the bottom corner of Andrew Colgan’s net.
When Clerkin – who went off injured at half-time – knocked over his third, Cavan were nine ahead and although Meath rounded off the first half with points from Wallace and Padraig McKeever (free), they still went in for their tea seven in arrears, 1-8 to 0-5.
On the resumption, there was certainly more bite about Andy McEntee’s men. They opened the scoring with a fine Cillian O’Sullivan effort but Cavan cancelled this out through Magee (free) and sub McKiernan.
Veteran Reilly landed his second but when McKiernan caught a kick-out and the ball was worked to defender Ciaran Brady, who tucked low to the net, it was a 10-point game.
From Meath’s next attack, they earned a penalty when O’Sullivan was hauled down and Donal Lenihan tucked away well from the spot after a delay due to an unseemly melee.
The Royals pressed hard but Cavan always had them at arm’s length. The teams traded scores through Bryan Menton, O’Sullivan and sub Daniel O’Neill (for Meath) and Oisin Kiernan (free), Ray Galligan (45) and McKiernan as the exchanges became feisty at times and spilled over to the crowd, with Gardaí accompanying one Meath supporter from the stand.
Killian Clarke and McKeever exchanged points, as did Menton and McKiernan, but Cavan had done enough and won pulling up by five to maintain their unbeaten record.
Scorers for Cavan: Niall Clerkin 0-3, Conor Moynagh 1-0, Ciaran Brady 1-0, Caoimhin O’Reilly 0-2, Bryan Magee 0-2f, Gearoid McKiernan 0-2, Killian Clarke 0-1, Adrian Cole 0-1, Raymond Galligan 0-1 (45)
Scorers for Meath: Padraig McKeever 0-3 (2f), Donal Lenihan 1-0 (pen), Graham Reilly 0-2, Eamon Wallace 0-2, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-2, Bryan Menton 0-2, Daniel O’Neill 0-1,
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Niall Murray, Padraig Faulkner, David Philips, Martin Reilly, Ciaran Brady, Enda Flanagan, Killian Clarke, Bryan Magee, Dara McVeety, Conor Moynagh, Oisin Kiernan, Caoimhin O’Reilly, Adrian Cole, Niall Clerkin
Subs: Cian Mackey for Clerkin (h-t), Gearoid McKiernan for Cole (h-t), Jason McLoughlin for Philips (51), Stephen Murray for Flanagan (54), Thomas Galligan for O’Reilly (63), Ryan Connolly for Magee (69)
Meath: Andrew Colgan, Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Donal Keogan, Brian Conlon, Brian Power, Shane McEntee, Bryan Menton , Adam Flanagan, James McEntee, Padraig McKeever, Graham Reilly , Eamon Wallace, Cillian O’Sullivan, Bryan McMahon
Subs: Donal Lenihan for McMahon (h-t), Harry Rooney for Flanagan (42 mins), Sean Tobin for J McEntee (54), Daniel O’Neill for Conlon (54), Thomas O’Reilly for Reilly (62), Donal Lenihan for Rooney (BC, 56)