Paddy Lynch goal double brings Division Four cup back to Cavan
Allianz National Football League Division Four final: Cavan 2-10 Tipperary 0-15
IN the corridors beneath the Cusack Stand afterwards and with the clatter of Cavan boots drowning out some of David Power’s post-match press briefing, you got the immediate sense that this Division Four final mattered to both teams more than even they anticipated.
As it turned out, Cavan nicked the bragging rights in the closing stages to celebrate their first inter-county title at Croke Park in 70 years, following in the footsteps of the 1952 All-Ireland winners from the Breffni County.
“I thought the better team lost to be honest,” said the Tipperary manager Power.
“We were the better team in the second half; just a couple of key turnovers cost us. They got the second goal and I suppose that was the crucial score. It was against the run of play. We got 15 scores, they got 12 scores, and we hit the crossbar near the end.”
The adrenaline was obviously still pumping in the Tipp boss as he took exception to a reporter’s question over why he substituted free-scoring midfielder Mark Russell on 54 minutes.
Russell was on fire, sweeping over four fantastic points – three in the first half and his last just two minutes before his surprise withdrawal.
It was a question on everybody’s lips at the time and afterwards as Cavan ran out one-point winners thanks to Paddy Lynch raising his second green flag of the afternoon with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
When the most natural of enquiries was put to Power, he dismissed it as a “stupid question” and told the reporter his knowledge of football was limited.
After being challenged by reporters, Power had the good grace to apologise moments later before giving a considered explanation for taking his best player off the field when Tipperary were a point up [0-12 to 1-8].
“Mark Russell has been unbelievable,” said Power. “He’s only in this year. He’s done very, very well. If you look at all our games he’s been coming off around the 50th minute mark… If there’s 70 minutes in him he stays on the pitch.”
Asked was he surprised to see Russell, Tipperary’s number nine, substituted, Cavan boss Mickey Graham replied: “Yeah, he was playing well. He was having a big influence on the game.”
Power's disappointment was understandable.
His side were denied victory when substitute Stephen Quirke saw his close-range shot in the 73rd minute come back off the underside of the Cavan crossbar and away to safety. Had the ball bounced over the goal-line it would have put Power’s men one up with two minutes of stoppage-time remaining.
But whether Tipperary were the better side or not at a sunny Croke Park on Saturday afternoon, the scoreboard told a different story.
When put to Graham afterwards that Power felt the better team lost, the Cavan boss quipped: “The better team lost in Breffni Park a few weeks ago, so you can look at it that way too.”
Despite Power’s immediate disappointment of missing out on the Division Four silverware, it’s a defeat that should be easily absorbed as they look forward to Division Three football next season along with Cavan while eyeing up Waterford in the Munster SFC at the end of the month.
When the seconds are ticking down on a wide open pitch like Croke Park and limbs are starting to hang, turnovers are like gold dust.
Jason McLoughlin’s turnover just inside Cavan's half of the field that led to Lynch’s second goal on 63 minutes was absolutely huge.
Always a man for big-game moments, Thomas Galligan off-loaded to Gearoid McKiernan and galloped ahead of him to get a return pass before he found the unmarked Lynch who struck low into Tipperary’s net at the Canal End.
It put Cavan 2-10 to 0-13 ahead and despite two converted frees from Mark Sweeney in the closing stages, Cavan held on to take the silverware home.
“I thought in the areas we won the turnovers were key,” Graham acknowledged, “because it left a big space in behind to attack and in fairness the boys worked the goals well when the opportunities arose.
“Sometimes you think boys are out on their feet but the pace and power they showed to get up and support each other off the shoulder was key in that.”
If Lynch’s second goal had a demoralising impact on Tipp, his brilliant angled goal finish on 24 minutes brought Cavan into this Division Four final and helped them fashion a 1-5 to 0-7 half-time lead.
Mark Russell, however, was the talk of Croke Park during and after this enjoyable joust.
The big midfielder opened his account on 28 minutes and sent over another beauty two minutes later to rouse the Tipp supporters in the Hogan stand.
And for good measure he sliced a third between Cavan’s posts with the outside of his right boot in first-half stoppage-time.
If Russell was rising to the occasion for Tipperary, so too were Cavan duo, midfielder James Smith and rookie full-forward Paddy Lynch – two players Antrim will need to be extremely mindful of when the sides meet in the Ulster Championship at Corrigan Park in just 19 days’ time.
Promoted and a cup to show for it, Cavan football is no longer in the doldrums after Saturday’s trip to the capital.
“Any time you play a final it’s important to win it no matter what level it’s at, just from a mentality point of view and just to have something to show for your endeavours during the year,” Graham said.
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1 ’45); L Fortune, P Faulkner (0-1), K Brady; J McLoughlin, C Moynagh (0-1), G Smith; J Smith (0-1), K Clarke; T Galligan, G McKiernan (0-1 free), C Madden (0-1); E Finnegan, P Lynch (2-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark), S Smith (0-1) Subs: C Brady for K Brady (47), C O’Reilly for C Madden (49), C Madden for G Smith (60), C Conroy for E Finnegan (63), N Murray S Smith (75)
Yellow cards: K Brady (25), P Lynch (38), S Smith (49)
Tipperary: M O’Reilly; S O’Connell, J Feehan, J Harney; K Fahey (0-1), C O’Shaughnessy, T Maher; C Kennedy, M Russell (0-4); B Maher, J Kennedy (0-1 free), T Doyle (0-1); M O’Shea (0-2), C Sweeney (0-6, 0-3 frees), S O’Connor Subs: C Deeley for S O’Connor (19), W Eviston for J Harney (49), S Quirke for M Russell (54), B Hewitt for C Deeley (65), M Kehoe for T Maher (69)
Yellow cards: C Deeley (65)
Referee: J Hickey (Carlow)