Cavan on the cusp of promotion after dismissing Laois
National Football League Division Two: Cavan1-17 Laois 0-15
AFTER dismissing Laois on Sunday with the minimum of fuss, Cavan find themselves on the cusp of promotion again. A draw at home to promotion rivals Galway next week will be enough to send the Breffni Blues into Division One alongside Tyrone.
But Cavan boss Terry Hyland wasn’t counting his chickens after yesterday’s five-point win over relegation-haunted Laois: “We were in the same scenario last year,” he said.
“We lost our last league game last year and it shifted us down to fourth or fifth on scoring difference. In this division, it was always going come down to the last day. I said that at the start of the league. We still have to get a result against Galway. It’s as simple as that.”
Although Hyland was disappointed with his side’s second-half display, there was enough evidence to suggest Cavan are a much-improved team from last season. There are no more meandering hand-passes, no more lateral play, and their defensive blanket isn’t just as conservative as in previous seasons.
There’s a bit more about the class of 2016, a bit more dynamism. For starters, their transition from defence to attack - Cavan’s Achilles’ heel in recent seasons - is quicker and more direct. They have line-breakers among their middle eight, they have a better spread of scores in their ranks and they have serious competition for places in the squad.
“It takes a while,” said Hyland.
“We had to go defensive a couple of years ago because we were leaking too many goals. And then you have to work on transition. And despite what people in the media think, that we’re together for eight or nine months, 70 per cent of our training sessions are at night, you don’t get pitches and there’s an awful lot of stuff you don’t get time to work on.”
The fact that Eugene Keating, Cian Mackey, Jack Brady, Niall Murray and Rory Dunne were sprung from the bench against Laois yesterday illustrates the handsome options Hyland has ahead of next Sunday’s shoot-out with Galway and the Championship.
The Cavan boss was quick to acknowledge the strength in depth at his disposal: “The difference is we’ve Eugene [Keating] back, David Givney is back and Seanie [Johnston] has come back - and that has helped.
“And the likes of Killian Clarke and that were only 21 last year. They’re only 22 now but they have matured that little bit more. Our training games are very strong; there are lads pushing for places. For example, Jack Brady has been showing well in training and he took his chance today.”
Brady, a 59th minute substitute, must be pushing for starting place against the Tribes men next week after hitting two fine points to ease Cavan over the finish line on Sunday. From the visitors’ perspective, they will rue their woeful shooting in the opening half.
Despite a strong wind at their backs, the O’Moore men had racked up seven wides and dropped three balls short in the opening 20 minutes: “Those misses were unforgivable, really,” said Laois boss Mick Lillis, whose side face a relegation battle with familiar foes Meath to preserve their Division Two status, while Armagh are still not out of danger.
“Dropping the ball into the keeper’s hands is an absolute no-no in Gaelic football. To do it into the breeze is understandable; with the breeze is unforgivable. Our first three shots went into their ’keeper’s hands and you shake your head. That’s a lack of confidence – somebody’s trying to stroke the ball over the bar instead of driving it.”
Cavan took full advantage of Laois’s wayward shooting and played as if they had the wind at their backs in the first 35 minutes. Impressive midfielder Tomas Corr and centre-forward Gearoid McKiernan found their range in the early stages before Seanie Johnston bagged the only goal of the game in the 14th minute.
The nature of the three-pointer was further evidence that Cavan are a different, more ruthless animal from last season. They didn’t have many sights of Laois’s goal yesterday - but when they did the Cavan attack took full advantage.
Corr won a breaking ball from the Laois kickout and between his midfield partner Liam Buchanan and raiding corner-back Padraig Faulkner, they found Johnston near goal who slotted the ball under the advancing Graham Brody. Johnston’s fine finish put Cavan 1-5 to 0-3 ahead.
McKiernan thumped over his second of three points from play in the 21st minute before centre-back Conor Moynagh ghosted forward to pick his spot to keep the pressure on Laois. The home side led 1-9 to 0-8 at the interval with Donie Kingston nabbing three late first half scores to keep Laois in the game.
The visitors were much the brighter of the sides at the restart and Jamie Farrell made it a three-point game on 43 minutes before Martin Reilly and Michael Argue hit a point apiece for Cavan. Substitute Ross Munnelly got Laois back to within three points again in the 59th minute but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Donie Kingston caused the Cavan defence some trouble and was denied a goal after a brave block by ’keeper Raymond Galligan. In the closing stages, McKiernan hit his third of the day and Jack Brady (0-2) put some daylight between the sides.
Apart from two patchy periods in the second-half, Cavan fully deserved their victory: “I’m happy with the win but I’d say we’ve played better football over the last few games,” Hyland said.
“Maybe we got a little bit nervy there in the second-half when we should have pushed on. But we’ve lots to work on for next week.”
On Laois’s prospects of staying in Division Two, Lillis said: “We don’t seem to be getting the breaks at the moment, and that’s going to be hard to turn around. But look we have to keep trying. You can’t pack up the tent and go home.
“We have another week and we’ll try again.”
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1, 45); P Faulkner, K Clarke, J McLoughlin; C Brady (0-1), C Moynagh (0-1), K Brady; T Corr (0-1), L Buchanan (0-1); D McVeety, G McKiernan (0-3), M Reilly (0-1); D Givney (0-1), M Argue (0-2), S Johnston (1-3, 0-3 frees); Subs: E Keating for Johnston (47), C Mackey for Argue (53), N Murray for Moynagh (58), J Brady (0-2) for L Buchanan (59), J Hayes for K Brady (66), R Dunne for Givney (70)
Laois: G Brody; C Begley (0-1), R Kehoe, D Strong; G Dillon, S Attride, M Timmons; B Quigley, C Meredith (0-1); K Meaney (0-1), J O’Loughlin (0-3), N Donoher; E Carroll (0-1), D Kingston (0-5 frees), P O’Sullivan; Subs: A Farrell for Dillon (h-t), R Munnelly (0-2, 0-1 free) for O’Sullivan (54), D O’Connor for Kehoe (58), D O’Reilly for Meredith (58), N Murphy for Carroll (63); Black card: K Meaney replaced by J Farrell (0-1) (36)
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)