Down pay for missed chances again as Cavan remain unbeaten
Allianz National Football League Division Two: Cavan 0-17 Down 0-14
ONE of these days Down will take their chances and annihilate some poor, hapless opponent.
One of these days.
But, by then, it might be too late.
Another two National League points slipped from their grasp on Saturday night as Cavan took full advantage of the Mournemen’s poor finishing to retain top spot in Division Two.
It happened against Cork. They missed a hatful of chances against Clare and they did the same against the Breffni men.
“There hasn’t been a game that we haven’t played that we couldn’t have won,” claimed Down manager Eamonn Burns afterwards.
“And that’s not a stretch of the imagination. If we’d been a wee bit steadier at times we could be sitting here with eight or 10 points, without a shadow of doubt.”
The visitors missed four glorious goal chances with the home side’s goalkeeper Raymond Galligan making two smashing saves either side of half-time to deny Connaire Harrison and Ryan Johnston.
The latter fired over the bar towards the end of the first half when a major looked possible while Donal O’Hare side-footed his 51st minute effort agonisingly wide of Galligan’s upright.
And when the Down players weren’t racking up goal chances, they were landing a host of balls short or wide of Cavan’s posts.
With each missed chance there was a dark inevitability about the outcome for the visitors, who remain on four points after five games.
Cavan, by contrast, were much more clinical – and were more adept at getting their shooters in the right positions to win this clash and put them in the driving seat for one of the promotion berths.
“I think we shot 37 times and the return wasn’t high enough,” sighed Burns, who was sent off towards the end of the first half after a schmozzle near the sideline.
“I thought we played well for long periods in that game.
“I thought our defence played very well and marked tightly and were well organised. I thought our midfield battled hard. I thought our forward play was good but it was just our final execution.”
Burns was miffed by referee Padraig O’Sullivan’s decision to stop the play after Shay Millar was pole-axed even though O’Hare was odds-on to finally raise a green flag for Down in the 56th minute and level the tie.
“We created three or four goal chances and when Shay Millar got hurt we were straight through and he blew the game up,” said Burns.
“I don’t know what the total definition of that rule is but there was no advantage to us.”
That was Down’s night in a nutshell.
They may have missed a series of chances but it didn’t make accidental heroes out of Cavan.
The home side's game-management in the second half was hugely impressive. And their subs bench proved the difference.
The evergreen Cian Mackey was thrown into the fray in the 25th minute and hit two fantastic points.
Young Conor Bradley of Ramor United staked a persuasive claim for a starting place with two significant scores in the second half and Seanie Johnston scored with his first touch in the 66th minute which saw the Breffni Blues edge ahead 0-14 0-13.
“Once the players cross that white line they have to make an impact, and every one of them did that,” said McGleenan, whose side remain unbeaten.
“Conor Bradley came in and made an impact. He’s been pushing really, really hard. Seanie came in – that’s his first outing. Seanie does what Seanie does – first touch and scores. I’m delighted to have got two points and we’re still unbeaten this year.”
Cavan started brightly with the impressive Gearoid McKiernan getting McGleenan’s men off to a perfect start on four minutes before rookie corner-forward Caoimhin O’Reilly shook off the attentions of Colm Flanagan to raise a white flag.
But for the vast majority of the first half Down were in control.
Down’s middle eight found inside men Harrison and O’Hare with surprising ease and regularity. Returning after serving a two-match suspension, Harrison showed some marvellous glimpses of his raw talent, selling Padraig Faulkner a beautiful dummy in the 18th minute to put Down 0-4 to 0-2 ahead.
Cavan didn’t play with much of a defensive screen and appeared to back themselves to out-score their visitors.
In the 24th minute, O’Hare did brilliantly to tee up Harrison for a goal chance but Galligan made a fine save. Had the Down attacker converted, the visitors would have been 1-5 to 0-3 in front.
Instead, they paid for their profligacy as Cavan rattled off the next three points to forge ahead by a point.
Ryan Johnston’s blinding pace saw him break Cavan’s defensive lines in first-half stoppage-time to point but it was remarkable Down were only ahead by a point [0-7 to 0-6] at the interval.
And then there was the side-show just before the break.
Burns will live to regret raising his hand to Cavan player Oisin Kiernan on the cusp of half-time after initially trying to separate Caolan Mooney and Dara McVeety near the sideline.
Eamonn Burns appears to push Cavan player just before half time. May have carried over into the tunnel as crowd heard ref’s whistle blowing a few times. Down 0-7 Cavan 0-6, ht pic.twitter.com/NnZVXqMBsT— Brendan Crossan (@CrossanBrendan) March 10, 2018
There was more than a hint of tension in the tunnel but neither camp was prepared to spill the beans and, in any case, the match official took no action apart from dismissing Burns.
Ruairi Wells levelled for Down in the 63rd minute but Cavan finished strongly, scoring four of the last five points with Mackey, McKiernan, Bradley and Seanie Johnston to the fore.
Burns was right: Down did a lot of things well – apart from converting a sufficient number of chances.
Benny Coulter, the county's former Allstar forward, was co-commentating in the press box on Saturday night and was shaking his head at the goal chances Down missed.
“We’d four goal chances and didn’t take any of them,” he said on commentary. “You have to take your chances.”
Coulter would have had a field day on nights like these – and his native Down wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder with two games remaining...
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1, ’45); J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, Conor Brady; M Reilly, Ciaran Brady, E Flanagan; K Clarke, B Magee (0-2 frees); D McVeety (0-1), C Moynagh (0-1), O Kiernan (0-1); N Clerkin, G McKiernan (0-4), C O’Reilly (0-2, 0-1 free) Subs: C Mackey (0-2) for Conor Brady (25), A Cole for N Clerkin (h/t), C Bradley (0-2) for C Moynagh (46), S Johnston (0-1) for E Flanagan (65), K Clarke for S Murray (68)
Yellow cards: E Flanagan (56)
Down: M Reid; C Flanagan, B McArdle, A Doherty (0-2 frees); R Wells (0-1), N McParland, C Mooney (0-1); P Turley, N Donnelly; C Francis, C Maginn, S Millar (0-1); C Harrison (0-3, 0-1 free), D O’Hare (0-4, 0-3 frees), R Johnston (0-1) Subs: K McKernan (0-1) for C Francis (46), D McKibbin for S Millar (58), C Poland for N Donnelly (61), R Millar for D O’Hare (69)
Yellow cards: K McKernan (53), D McKibbin (64), C Poland (68)
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)