Cavan 3-8 Longford 0-12
This is their first junior A title since 1979 when a side with Shane Moynagh starring took home a crown. The hard work was worth it as captain Brendan O’Reilly held up the Charlie Sweeney Cup in victory and the Breffni Boys move on to the intermediate ranks for 2015.
It was a hard fought battle, but the brilliance of Steve O’Connor and the dogged determination and fielding skills of James Galligan led the winner’s home. Galligan was outstanding as he won the high ball and the hard ball in the middle of the field. His passing was top rate as he constantly found a teammate in a good position in his man of the match performance.
The first half was beset with off the ball tangling, late hitting, ugly tackling and a number of injuries. After an opening when football was played, it turned into an ugly affair where far more yellows could have and should have been given, and at least two reds.
As it turned out, Eoin Ward and Kieran Tavey left the field with nasty injuries and a number more also left for doctor visits. Cavan led 1-4 to 0-5 at the break with all of their points coming from frees.
The goal arrived after four minutes and cancelled out a Kevin Smyth pointed gem from the corner and a Kavanagh point from play. Defender Dan Shanaghy stormed forward and linked with Colm McGinn before crashing the ball to the top right corner.
Longford had a clear cut goal chance of their own in the eighth minute when Martin Brady broke free on goal, but his low shot was easily dealt with by Mark Galligan. Paul O’Hara did loft a point a minute later to narrow the gap, but Steve O’Connor added two frees in , both arriving when he was fouled.
With Cavan now ahead 1-2 to 0-3, a series of needless bad tackles occurred and a number of players were injured. Ward and Tavey left the field but the sour feelings festered.
Smyth with another beauty, and Kavanagh with a free leveled the contest, but as the half came to a close O’Connor again dispatched a pair of frees over the lathe, both again after he was fouled. He was tormenting the rearguard with and without the ball.
Cavan put paid to the challenge of Longford in a six minute scoring burst to open the second half. Two minutes in O’Connor was pulled down in the box, and he dispatched the resulting penalty to the back of the net to extend the advantage to 2-4 to 0-5. Brian Kavanagh did have a free in reply, but goal number three arrived moments later.
From the Leitrim kick out, James Galligan made a towering catch. He moved the ball forward to Seamie Kelly who in turn found McGinn. The wily wing forward made no mistake at asking as he fired to the net.
It was now a game of catch up for Longford and they looked more likely to need a goal, one that they never threatened to get. The closest that they had in the next 10 minutes was a low drive from Sean Hand that went low across the goal and harmlessly wide.
Kavanagh did have a brace from frees, the first when Smyth was pulled back, the second from an impossible angle on the sideline 30 yards from goal.
Things took a turn for the worse, however, with 15 minutes left. A tough tackle by Brendan Donaghue on Kelly resulted in the corner back receiving his walking papers while Kelly received attention.
McGinn had a point from play in the aftermath as the resulting free was worked into his hands, and he chipped over to again put six between the sides, 3-6 to 0-8.
O’Connor followed with a point from a free before Liam Farrell had a goal chance that the defense cleared.
Longford lost Michael Ledwith to a black card with seven minutes left, but they battled on gamely actually outscoring Cavan 4-2 the rest of the way.
Any serious goal danger was cleared as O’Reilly had two timely interceptions, and Tommy Warburton also had a number of clearances. James Galligan was also lending a hand at the back which helped immensely against the shorthanded Longford side.
For Cavan, Mark Galligan did all that was required. He had one very timely stop when the game was still in the balance. Dan Shanaghy, Brian Murray who came on for the injured McPhilips, O’Reilly and Warburton all played impressive parts in the back line.
O’Reilly plays on the edge, but his tough tackling gives forwards nightmares. Warburton moved the ball out of the defensive end very well throughout. James Galligan dominated the middle, especially in the second half when he was a colossal.
Colm McGinn, the brilliant Steve O’Connor and Seamus Kelly all had leading roles up front. Eoin Ward was a huge loss, but the forward line regrouped and all stepped up to help fill the shoes collectively. Kelly was again a super sub.
For Longford, John McCorry, Mike Creegan, Paul O’Hara first half all had shining moments. Kevin Smyth kicked two lovely points while Kavanagh kicked eight but only two from play. The ball just didn’t get into the full forward line in a timely or productive manner.
In the second half Kavanagh was out on the forty and too far from goal to cause serious problems.
Longford: 1 Martin O’Connor, 2 John McCorry, 3 Michael Ledwith, 4 Brendan Donaghue, 5 Val Delaney, 6 Mike Creegan, 7 Kieran Tavey, 8 Paul O’Hara (0-1), 9 Martin Brady, 10 Cathal Monaghan, 11 Mark Diffley (0-1), 12 Nathan Finnigan, 13 Sean Hand, 14 Brian Kavanagh (0-8), 15 Kevin Smyth (0-2). Subs: Sean Boyle, Ronan Rodgers, Cillian Barkley.
Cavan: 1 Mark Galligan, 2 Dan Shanaghy, 3 Owen McPhillips, 4 Dan King, 5 Brendan O’Reilly, 6 Tommy Warburton, 7 Rory Braden, 8 James Galligan, 9 Rory O’Connor (0-1), 10 Colm McGinn (1-1), 11 Paddy Smyth, 12 Eoin Ward, 13 Ryan Hennessy, 14 Barry Dalton, 15 Stevie O’Connor (1-6). Subs: Seamus Kelly, Brian Murray, Sean McGivney.
Man of the match: James Galligan (Cavan).
Referee: Pat Donohue.