Sunday, June 16, 2024


FEW expected Down to emerge from Breffni Park with a Tailteann Cup semi final to look forward to. That thought, is precisely the position in which the Mournemen left the Cavan venue after a superb performance over the 70 minutes resulted in a fivepoint victory over the hosts who had twice beaten Down at the same venue in the last year. In the opening round of last season’s Tailteann Cup, Down travelled to Cavan and came away beaten by nine (0-24 – 1- 12) while in this year’s National League the Breffni men won by seven (2-14 – 1- 10). Admittedly, Paddy Lynch, who was instrumental in that league victory – scoring 2-5 on the day – is currently not involved with the Cavan panel but this was still a high-quality Breffni side and that showed in this game which was a superb encounter. Cavan came into the tie as Tailteann Cup favourites having been beaten in last year’s final but from the start Down showed no fear. The early exchanges were tight and tense with the sides swapping points from free kicks. Pat Havern nailed two for Down, the fresh highlights in his hair almost as impressive as the mark he took from Danny Magill’s long ball in while Oisin Brady hit back with two for Cavan.

Down established a degree of superiority thereafter with a trio of points from Rory Mason – who was again superb -, Liam Kerr and Pat Havern shooting the Mournemen three clear. As was the case repeatedly over the course of the game however, Cavan refused to lie down and kicked three of the next four scores to bring the deficit back to one. Ryan Johnston had replied to Padraig Faulkner’s point but a second Brady brace from the dead ball brought his personal tally to four and kept Cavan in touch. After that very lively opening 20 minutes the scoring slowed considerably in the remainder of the half with five points scored in the remaining quarter hour.

Down managed three of those courtesy of Havern, Kerr and Mason while Gearoid McKiernan and Oisin Kiernan were the contributors for the home side. Kerr’s score had been a sight of goal but his blasted effort rose over. Mason’s contribution meanwhile was a monster effort from beneath the stand. Cavan could also have had a goal of their own but Oisin Brady, who finished the day with eight points, saw his effort brilliantly denied when Niall Kane got down sharply and got a strong hand to the ball aimed low to his right. Cavan also started the second half much brighter and twice got themselves on level terms but were unable to actually get ahead.

Early scores from Faulkner and Brandon Boylan restored equilibrium. Though Danny Magill put Down back in the driving seat, Oisin Brady ensured the there was no immediate upping of the gears as he made it ten apiece. With four of the next five points to their name, Down did seem to have grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck but again Cavan would find a way to tip the scales their way after that spell as this topsyturvy game continued to entertain all viewers.

The ten minute purple patch that saw Down notch those four points could have been even more lucrative. Paddy McCarthy’s fisted point could have been a goal, Rory Mason’s effort from an incredibly acute angle was brilliant while Liam Kerr and Pat Havern also kept the scoreboard ticking. Brady was Cavan’s go to man again to make sure they hung on to Down’s coattails. A Cavan comeback would have been maddening for the travelling Down contingent and it was two Maddens who tried to inspire it as Cian and Tiarnan Madden landed scores either side of one from Brady. Liam Kerr’s score between times ensured Down still led by one entering the closing minutes.

As the game ticked to the 69th minute Shane Annett picked out a peach of a pass to Pat Havern who won the ball infront and slipped it to the onrushing Danny Magill who drove to goal first in a metaphorical sense with a driving run and then in a literal sense with a driving shot cannoning the Cavan net. Though Brady made it a onescore game, again Down’s strong running continued at the end of the game as impressively as it had shown at the start.

Rory Mason made the gap four again before victory was sealed by Shane Annett. Down turned the ball over on their own 20 metre line and broke rapidly with Ceilum Doherty and Miceal Rooney combining before the latter played the ball across to Annett to slot over. It was a brilliant win for Down and one which sends the Red and Black back to Croke Park for a Tailteann Cup semi-final this coming weekend.

Cavan: Raymond Galligan; Cian Reilly, Padraig Faulkner 0-2, Niall Carolan; Ciaran Brady, Oisin Kiernan 0-1, Conor Brady, Gerard Smith, Killian Clarke; Cian Madden 0-1, Dara McVeety, Tiarnan Madden 0-1; Brandon Boylan 0-1, Gearoid McKiernan 0- 1, Oisin Brady 0-8. Subs: R O’Neill for Conor Brady (23), C Moynagh for Boylan (58), J McCabe for C Reilly (62), C McGovern for G Smith (70+2) Yellow card: O Brady (30) Down: Niall Kane; Paddy McCarthy 0-1, Pierce Laverty, Anthony Doherty; Miceal Rooney, Ceilum Doherty, Paddy Branagan; Daniel Guinness, Odhran Murdock; Liam Kerr 0-4, Rory Mason 0-4, Danny Magill 1-1; Ryan Johnston 0-1, Eugene Branagan, Pat Havern 0-5. Subs: Shealan Johnston for E Branagan (44), Ryan McEvoy for P Laverty (60), Shane Annett 0-1 for R Johnston (66), Gerard Collins for R Mason (70+2) Yellow card: D Guinness (65)

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