Cavan's subs torpedo Longford's hopes as Breffnimen land first win of the Allianz League season
Allianz Football League Division Three North: Cavan 1-19 Longford 1-13
ON a day borrowed from mid-March, last years's Ulster football kingpins made hay in the rain at Kingspan Breffni.
From the moment seasoned campaigner Gearóid McKiernan sent an exocet to the Longford net in the 17th minute, Mickey Graham's men never vacated the driver's seat.
The Blues boss has fielded five debutants so far in this season's Allianz League but says nobody should be surprised.
“If we don’t give the new lads a chance now, when will they get their opportunity,” said Graham after a tasty derby duel.
“We’re intent on giving the new, younger lads in the squad experience of competitive football and it is up to them to take their opportunity and, so far, they have.
“Healthy competition for places was part of our success last year and the lads that are pushing for starting places now know that there are fellas coming back from injury and that they have to do well when given the chance.”
Graham’s decision to spring 23-year-old Conor Smith from the bench midway through the second half worked a treat with the Killygarry clubman notching three points to help seal the deal.
However, it was McKiernan's major - after being put through by the outstanding Ciarán Brady – which was the pivotal score and which gave the hosts a lead (1-3 to 0-3) they never looked like relinquishing.
After a tentative start, Cavan looked like moving onto Easy Street when easing their way into a 1-6 to 0-3 lead by the 21st minute. However, Longford were a much improved team from the one given a hiding by Derry last time out and they kept nipping away at Cavan's heels.
Indeed, the Ulstermen got a let-off in the 25th minute when Darren Gallagher was presented with a golden goal chance after good work by Robbie Smyth and Joseph Hagan only to cough up possession of the ball at the last second.
Longford hung in there though and three unanswered points – including a gem from Joseph Hagan - cut Cavan’s lead to 1-7 to 0-8.
Cavan were hit and miss at times and they generally laboured to consolidate the leg-up provided by McKiernan’s goal.
In fact, it was the Leinster men who finished the first half the stronger, leaving them trailing by just 0-10 to 1-9 at the break.
A seven-minute break followed the throw-in with Cavan midfielder James Smith having to be stretchered after falling heavily to the ground.
Cavan stayed on the front foot after the restart and they were sitting pretty on the back of a 1-13 to 0-12 lead entering the final quarter.
The Breffnimen went on to control the tempo of the game in the run-in and points from Smith (two) and Martin Reilly left Longford facing a six-point deficit on the hour mark.
Longford fought to the bitter end but despite the addition of 10 minutes added-on time, a Darren Gallagher penalty (71) and a black card (71) for Cavan’s Lynch, last year’s Ulster kingpins weren’t to be denied.
“Longford are a strong, physical side and I’m delighted with the result and especially with the way we upped our work ethic in the second half,” said Graham.
“The lads played some intelligent football against the wind and put in a serious shift all through the game.
“I was very pleased as well with how they responded to Longford’s penalty. There was at least 10 minutes to play after that so there was time for Longford to come back at us. But, just like last year, our subs made an impact and so we were able to see the game out."
Cavan: R Galligan (0-2 frees); K Clarke, P Faulkner (0-1), J McLoughlin; Ciaran Brady (0-1), O Kiernan (0-2), C Reilly; C Brady (0-1), K Brady; M Reilly (0-2), G McKiernan (1-1), J Smith; C McGovern (0-1), P Lynch (0-3 frees), O Pierson (0-2 frees).
Subs: C Madden for K Brady (h-t); L Fortune for J Smith (42); S Murray for Ciaran Brady (54); C Smith (0-3, 0-1 free) for O Pierson (55); S McEvoy for C McGovern (55); C Timoney for J McLoughlin (70).
Longford: P Collum; P Fox, A Farrell, C P Smyth; D Reynolds, G Rogers, D Mimnagh (0-1); D McGivney, J Hagan (0-2); D Gallagher (1-3, 0-3 frees), R Brady (0-2), M Quinn; R Smyth (0-2), L Connerton (0-1), I O’Sullivan (0-1).
Subs: G Flynn for M Quinn (9); M Quinn for G Flynn (14); P Lynn for I O’Sullivan (56); B McKeon (0-1) for J Hagan (63); L Moran for L Connerton (74).
Ref: C Reilly (Meath)