Cavan paper over the cracks

 

CAVAN's post-match satisfaction was apparent. A 14-man Louth challenge had been rebuffed in Breffni Park, albeit with difficulty, for the essential Division Two points, while Armagh had lost out to Cork. Promotion secured, Cavan have leap-frogged from Division Three to Division One in two seasons of Martin McHugh's management.

Yesterday's performance is unlikely, however, to inspire any excessive confidence in the Cavan camp. A free-riddled game, that sometimes threatened to get out of hand, served to display the deficiencies of their attack.

Tipperary referee Paddy Russell booked five Louth players and two Cavan men before dismissing right half back, Gerry Curran, five minutes into the second half after an incident involving Cavan's Dermot McCabe.

It was not the first time during a tetchy hour that the referee had to consult with his umpires and linesmen.

Cavan had difficulty in dealing with 14-man opposition. Only Anthony Forde and Jason O Reilly, with a point apiece, managed to score from play for the winners. Once more, there was far too much dependency on the place-kicking of Ronan Carolan. His goal, from a penalty two minutes before half-time, was the game's major turning point.

Carolan had been denied earlier when, with the teams level at four points apiece, Louth goalkeeper Niall O'Donnell made a brilliant one-handed save.

Cavan's were guilty of over-elaboration, with much misuse of the hand-pass, while their shooting left something to be desired. They had six first-half wides against Louth's two.

However, lively displays by their mobile full back and captain Damien O'Reilly, together with the industry of half backs Ciaran Brady, Aidan Connolly and Pat Shiels, was comforting for the home supporters in the 7,000 crowd.

Louth were threatening throughout, particulary after Curran's dismissal brought about a reshuffle full forward Redmond O'Neill switched to midfield, while Ken Reilly moved back to the half back line.

Their frustration mounted when Alan Rooney knocked an Ollie McDonnell cross off the butt of a post. This piece of misfortune came at a time in the third quarter when Louth's general work-rate was troubling the Cavan defence

Cavan's midfield efforts weakened, but Louth hit three wides before the second half was six minutes old. There was little relief for Cavan when Carolan increased his team's 1-4 to 0-4 interval lead with a pointed free.

Damien O'Reilly said afterwards: "There is no doubt we had our backs to the wall in the second half and were waiting for the final whistle. We have a lot of work to do."

Colin Kelly's accuracy from frees was central to Louth's fight-back which saw them gain parity, 1-5 to 0-8, with 10 minutes remaining. However, Carolan again came to Cavan's rescue with a pointed free and a point from a 45. Forde added a rare point from play for Cavan, but Kelly got Louth back to within a point of their rivals before Peter Reilly, from a free, had the final say with the last point of the game well into injury-time.