Cavan and Meath share the spoils at Kingspan Breffni

The result doesn’t help either side in their pursuit of Armagh and Donegal at the top of Division Two

Killian Clarke drives through midfield as Cavan go in search of a winning score. Photo: Adrian Donohoe.
Killian Clarke drives through midfield as Cavan go in search of a winning score against Meath in Saturday's Allianz Football League Division Two game at Kingspan Breffni Picture: Adrian Donohoe.
Allianz Football League Division Two, round five: Cavan 0-11 Meath 0-11

THIS was a game that both sides needed to win to keep alive outside hopes of muscling into the top-two and pushing for promotion.

That neither ultimately did seemed to be more of a downer for Cavan than Meath.

Meath manager Colm O’Rourke was certainly upbeat afterwards, cracking a series of jokes and describing it as their best performance of the campaign, despite coughing up a 0-8 to 0-4 lead with 45 minutes on the clock.

“It’s time for Nunc Est Bibendum again tonight,” smiled O’Rourke, repeating the ‘Now is the time for drinking’ quip that he previously tossed out after last year’s Tailteann Cup final defeat of Down.

“We’ll taste the delicacies of some north Meath taverns. I think the lads deserve a good night out.”

There were more smiles when O’Rourke was asked what exactly had gone wrong for them, coughing up that lead as they did.

“I think George Best was asked that same question when he was found in bed with Miss World,” shot back O’Rourke, suggesting that a draw with the pre-match favourites wasn’t a bad result.

Raymond Galligan, meanwhile, didn’t speak to media after the stalemate. Presumably, he would have been disappointed with the overall performance given his team’s no-show for the first-half. They only scored three points in the 35 or so minutes and just once from open play.

Cavan struck 10 wides in all and dropped several more point attempts short. They did bring increased urgency to the game in the second half, though, and having attacked with little width or pace in the first half, improved noticeably in that regard.

Paddy Lynch was the principal scorer again, hitting six points, while James Smith weighed in with two important second-half scores.

Lynch’s last score in the 68th minute put Cavan a point up, but Meath goalkeeper Sean Brennan, kicking his third point from a placed ball in the 70th minute, hit what proved to be the equaliser.

The final few minutes were madcap to say the least. Meath substitute Adam McDonnell coughed up possession with a wild hand-pass at one stage in midfield, then Cavan were denied a score by a terrific Donal Keogan interception and in the very last moments Meath wing-back Ciaran Caulfield kicked a left-footed point attempt from the left back off an upright.

Meath played the last nine minutes or so with 14 players following Ruairi Kinsella’s black card.

Cavan travel to Armagh next, on Saturday week, followed by a home game against Fermanagh. Meath have Cork at home before hitting the road for Donegal.

The draw has probably kept both teams in Division Two for another season and O’Rourke’s jovial reaction afterwards suggested that he was happy enough with that outcome, while Galligan may have been more interested in pushing for the top-two finish.

The former Cavan goalkeeper will be concerned with all the wides and missed and their mere six points return from play in benign conditions. Even after six inches of snow the day before, the pitch was in remarkably good condition.

Meath will take some credit for defending well too. Adam O’Neill is emerging into a terrific full-back for the Royals while fellow rookie Brian O’Halloran and veteran Donal Keogan impressed again too.

“Apart from the Armagh game, we haven’t allowed any team to run up huge scores on us,” said O’Rourke.

“Unfortunatley we haven’t been able to score enough ourselves either to put us out of reach but I think that’s nine, 10, 11 points we have generally restricted the opposition to. So it’s a sign that our defence is working well.”

Cavan G O’Rourke; N Carolan (0-1), K Brady, J McLoughlin; C Rehill, B O’Connell, P Faulkner (0-1); R Brady, K Clarke; C Brady, C Madden (0-1), G Smith; O Brady, P Lynch (0-6, 5f), J Smith (0-2)

Subs C O’Reilly for O Brady 21, T Madden for R Brady, C Reilly for Rehill both h/t, R O’Neill for O’Reilly 53, O Kiernan for K Brady 69

Meath S Brennan (0-3, 2 45s, 1f); A O’Neill, D Keogan, B O’Halloran; C Caulfield, D Campion, S Coffey; D McGowan (0-2), C McBride; R Jones (0-1), E Frayne (0-1, 1f), J O’Connor (0-1); M Costello (0-2), S Walsh (0-1), C Hickey

Subs R Kinsella for O’Connor 49, D Dixon for McGowan 57, M Murphy for Hickey, A Lynch for Frayne both 61, A McDonnell for Campion 64

Ref J Molloy (Galway)