Sheridan strike saves senior status for Cavan

Geraldine Sheridan (left) scored the crucial goal for Cavan in their TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship relegation play-off win over Westmeath

TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship relegation play-off: Cavan 1-13 Westmeath 1-9

THEY did it again. Cavan have once more saved their senior championship status in a enthralling victory over Westmeath in yesterday’s relegation play-off at Pearse Park, Longford.

Geraldine Sheridan, who was a replacement in the Cavan starting line-up for Ally Cahill, scored the crucial goal 12 minutes from time. It gave Cavan the lead for the first time in the game and despite Sarah Dillon’s best efforts for Westmeath, the Ulster side finished strongly to seal a four points win that guaranteed they will play senior championship in 2023.

Westmeath, who now return to the intermediate tier less than 12 months after clinching the All-Ireland Intermediate title, made the ideal start and were 0-4 to no score ahead by the 11th minute - Sarah Dillon, Karen Hegarty, Ciara Blundell and Dillon again (free) raising white flags.

Cavan were handed an early lifeline to get back into the game in the 12th minute when Sheridan was fouled but Lauren McVeety saw her penalty saved by Aoife Temple.

Aisling Gilsenan finally got Cavan off the mark in the 21st minute through a free but Dillon (free) responded to keep Westmeath’s lead at four.

Cavan added two more points from frees before the break through McVeety and Gilsenan frees to reduce the deficit to two at half-time, 0-5 to 0-3.

Within four minutes of the restart, Cavan were level - once again Gilsenan and McVeety’s accuracy from frees keeping Gerry Moane’s side in contention.

A 36th minute Hegarty point was Westmeath’s first score since the 22nd minute of the first half and it edged the Connacht side back in front, 0-6 to 0-5.

Substitute Cara McCaffrey levelled the game for a second time but then Dillon struck for the game’s opening goal in the 41st minute when her shot dipped into the net beyond the reach of Cavan goalkeeper Elaine Brady as the game swung in Westmeath’s favour and they led 1-6 to 0-6.

Cavan, however, dug deep and a point apiece from Sinead Greene - her side’s first from play - in the 42nd minute and one from McVeety four minutes later, left it a one point game once more.

Dillon doubled Westmeath’s advantage with a point but then Sheridan hit the back of the net and it was Cavan’s turn to lead by one, 1-8 to 1-7, with 12 minute to play.

Dillon replied again for Westmeath to square the game for a third time but Niamh Keenaghan and Sheridan grabbed points for Cavan to move them two in front with seven minutes remaining. Dillon, who finished with 1-6, sent over a free to narrow the gap to one but they couldn’t get any closer as Keenaghan, McVeety (free) and Gilsenan (free) made sure of the win.

Cavan manager Gerry Moane was understandably delighted with the win.

“Showed true guts, character, desire and want. They set themselves out that they definitely had no intention of going to intermediate football and they showed great heart, great togetherness.

“It didn’t go our way in the first half - missed chances, missed penalty, missed frees, 11 wides but they stuck at it, they stuck at the task and they did they job,” he said.