Cavan's two-goal Paddy Lynch leaves Down promotion hopes hanging by a thread

Cavan's Dara McVeety gets away from Down's Ceilum Doherty during Sunday's Allianz Football League Division Three match at Kingspan Breffni     Picture: Ian McCabe
Cavan's Dara McVeety gets away from Down's Ceilum Doherty during Sunday's Allianz Football League Division Three match at Kingspan Breffni Picture: Ian McCabe

Allianz Football League Division Three round five: Cavan 2-14 Down 1-10

AIMING for another last-gasp victory, as they’d magicked up against Antrim and Westmeath, Down instead slumped to a seven-point loss as Cavan fired in two late goals.

Paddy Lynch was the finisher for both, the second in added time much easier than his first, which was rifled in hard and low from a hand-pass by returning hero Gearoid McKiernan.

The Breffni Blues were also boosted by the introduction off the bench of James Smith and Conor Madden, making for a very satisfactory day all round for the hosts, who now are within touching distance of promotion.

Down know they will have to win both their remaining games if they are to have any chance of going up. They next host Longford before going to Offaly, two winnable matches for the Mournemen, and their manager Conor Laverty insisted that was their aim in Cavan too – and their downfall:

“That’s just the way football is now. The way we looked at it, we’d rather have a go when there were three points in it, we got it back to two at one stage – we felt we had to have a go at it and that probably left us a wee bit more open at the back and they hit us on the break.”

The Kilcoo man played down an incident around the tunnel area which resulted in both he and Cavan selector Ryan McMenamin being shown yellow cards before the second half commenced, while referee Paddy Neilan brandished red cards to Down selector Mickey Donnelly and visiting substitute Anthony Doherty.

Indeed Laverty and McMenamin spoke very amicably afterwards, with former Tyrone star ‘Ricey’ delighted to see Cavan rack up another victory:

“It was good getting winning, especially against Down – we knew they were going to bring a great challenge. We knew we needed to get minutes into the legs of a couple of the boys as well, like Gearoid [McKiernan], Conor Madden, James Smith.

“Look, we’re happy. At the start of the season we wanted to win all the games, and we’ve hit the first five. We were lucky enough, we looked shaky enough when Down got a great start, but the boys worked them out for themselves on the pitch.”

Down definitely posed problems in the opening quarter, and enjoyed a brilliant beginning, with a goal inside three minutes from Kilcoo’s Miceal Rooney.

Liam Kerr’s fast feet played a part, making a half-break, but it was his vision and quick hands which mattered more, fisting the ball into the run of Rooney, who powered on before calmly finishing low across Raymond Galligan to the net.

The Cavan goalkeeper and captain opened his side’s account from a free in the ninth minute, but another pacy Down counter ended with Pat Havern restoring their three-point advantage.

The Breffni Blues were struggling to find gaps in the packed Down defence, and also to cope with their speed on the turnover. More swift hand-passing sent Kerr in from the left, but Galligan raced out to bravely block his shot.

Gradually, Cavan began to make their dominance of possession and territory count, however, albeit from placed balls, with the advanced Dara McVeety converting a mark and Lynch converting his second free.

Still, their first point from play only came in the 32nd minute, through Cian Madden. That did level matters, at 0-5 to 1-2, but Down wasted a great opportunity to lead at half-time, with wing-back Patrick Branagan slicing a shot well wide.

It was Cavan who started the second half strongly, with three quick scores, and although Havern pointed in the 49th minute, to make it 0-9 to 1-4, that proved to be Down’s last score from play.

As Laverty noted, there were still only two points in it with 65 minutes on the clock, and he’d sent on his fellow Magpies, Ryan and Jerome Johnston, and Eugene Branagan, so Down looked to have the players on the pitch capable of snatching another two points.

Instead it was Cavan who pulled clear, as McKiernan – whose every touch was cheered to the rafters – and James Smith made their imposing presences felt in attack.

Both had scored themselves before McKiernan released Lynch to cut in from the left in the 67th minute, but it was still a terrific finish from the Crosserlough lad, who then added a point from play after a Havern free.

McKiernan really should have sealed the success as the game entered added time, but saw his shot blocked by Down goalkeeper Charlie Smyth.

Yet two minutes later, again found by Conor Madden, the big man had team-mates either side of him and wisely supplied Lynch for a simple finish inside the far post.

Cavan can now almost start thinking about their Ulster Championship preparation, although they do have a mini provincial series to complete in this division - a trip to Antrim and then a home clash against neighbours Fermanagh to conclude their group campaign.

The Breffnimen should have more than enough quality to see off the wounded Saffrons, while the Ernemen appear more likely to join Cavan in Division Two next season than Down.

The increasing Kilcoo contingent in their ranks can only bode well, but the chief Magpie, Laverty, knows there’s still much work to be done in order to come up with a formula that will result in collecting silverware.

Cavan: R Galligan (capt.) (0-1 free); J McLaughlin, P Faulkner, N Carolan; G Smith, C Brady, T Madden; D Brady, K Clarke; Cian Madden (0-2), D McVeety (0-2, 0-1 mark), J McCabe; P Lynch (2-5, 0-4 frees), R O’Neill, B Boylan (0-1).

Substitutes: J Smith (0-1) for D Brady (h-t); G McKiernan (0-2, 0-1 mark) for O’Neill (48); S Smith for McCabe (56); Conor Madden for Boylan (65); C Reilly for McVeety (68).

Down: C Smyth; C Fitzpatrick, R McEvoy (0-1 free), P Laverty; R Magill, C Doherty, P Branagan;  P Fegan, O Murdock; G Collins, L Kerr, M Rooney (1-0); A Gilmore (0-3 frees), P Havern (0-5, 0-3 frees), D McAleenan (0-1 mark).

Substitutes: A Morgan for Collins (25); R Johnston for Fitzpatrick (41); J Johnston for Branagan (46); C Francis for Rooney (54); E Branagan for Morgan (62).

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).