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Battling Cavan earn their place in final the hard way


Cavan’s Rory Dunne retains possession despite the attentions of Fermanagh’s Sean Quigley

Cavan’s Rory Dunne retains possession despite the attentions of Fermanagh’s Sean Quigley

Cavan’s Rory Dunne retains possession despite the attentions of Fermanagh’s Sean Quigley

So, Cavan march on to their second successive McKenna Cup final against Tyrone, but on the strength of this performance they will need to improve if they are to trouble Mickey Harte's side in Saturday evening's final at the Athletic Grounds.

Minus the services of the suspended Gearoid McKiernan, Cavan sorely lacked inspiration going forward and were clueless as to how to cope with Fermanagh's mass defence.

The Erne men set out their stall from the start - their 13 backs smothered Cavan and they looked to move the ball at pace out of defence. That, though, is easier said than done and, for long spells, this turned into a snoozefest, with one side or the other eeking a way to the 45 before hitting a wall of defenders, getting turned over and reversing the roles.

As it was, a dreadful match caught light in the dying seconds at Breffni Park as defensive howlers handed each side a goal in the 68th and 69th minutes - but the second, for Cavan, was decisive.

A howler from Blues goalkeeper Conor Gilsenan gave Fermanagh defender Marty O'Brien the simplest of finishes as they looked set to stage a smash and grab, having been pinned back for almost the entire second half, but an equally-disastrous mix-up at the other end let Philip Tinnelly in for a palmed goal to seal it for Cavan with time as good as up.

Fermanagh led by 0-6 to 0-4 at the end of a slow-burner of a first half. The Ernesiders camped, in the most part, behind their own 45 and looked to hit Cavan on the break. The plan succeeded in frustrating the hosts, who dominated possession but struggled to create clear-cut openings.

Three points from Sean Quigley and further scores from Barry Mulrone, Declan McCusker and Ryan Jones saw them lead by two on three occasions in the first half, with scores from Niall McDermott (free), Tom Hayes, Martin Reilly and Dara McVeety keeping Cavan in touch.

The third quarter was poor, with Fermanagh soaking up constant pressure from the home side, who were powered on by man of the match Killian Clarke.

Terry Hyland's troops eventually drew level in the 50th minute through a McDermott free and a long-range point from debutant Conor Moynagh, last year's U21 captain who grew into the game.

The equaliser seemed to rouse Cavan from their slumber and they quickly hit the front through Martin Reilly.

However, they just couldn't break Fermanagh down, which meant they were always open to a sucker punch.

Micheál Lyng tacked on the best score of the game - a great finish after two sublime passes from Moynagh and Barry Reilly - as Cavan looked comfortable but in the end they needed Tinnelly's goal, after McDermott's interception, to seal their place in the final for the second year in succession after they walked into the haymaker.

Fermanagh's goal had nudged them two in front and even after conceding their own calamitous three-pointer, they had late chances, with Sean Quigley seeing a long-range free rebound off the crossbar to safety and a 45 drift inches wide. But the hosts just about deserved the victory.

CAVAN: C Gilsenan, K Brady, R Dunne, J McLoughlin, F Flanagan, C Moynagh (0-1), M Reilly (0-2, 1f), D O'Reilly, K Clarke, D McVeety (0-1), C Conroy, M McKeever, N McDermott (0-2f), T Hayes (0-1), J Brady. Sub: M Lyng (0-1) for McVeety (21), E Hessin for Conroy (43), B Reilly for J Brady (48), J Hayes for K Brady (54), M Dunne for T Hayes (59), P Tinnelly (1-0) for Moynagh (68)

FERMANAGH: C Snow, M Jones, J Allen, N Cassidy, D McCusker (0-1), R McCluskey, M O'Brien (1-0), E Donnelly, R O'Callaghan, B Mulrone (0-1), R Jones (0-1), P McCusker, R Corrigan, S Quigley (0-4, 2f), E McManus. Subs: D Kelly for O'Callaghan (29), T Corrigan for P McCusker (49), J McMahon for E McManus (55), D McQuade for Kelly (61), C Flaherty for Jones (68)

Att: 2,113

Ref: M McNally (Monaghan)




Belfast Telegraph