Cavan 2-21   Na Fianna 0-15

Though a slew of sporting activities, including the New York GAA weekend schedule, were canceled due to the oppressive heat conditions, the New York ladies managed to get their final played.

The ladies were operating under rather tight time constraints as many of the players are heading to the World Games in Ireland, plus the referee had flown here from Ireland for the game.

The game went ahead at 8 p.m. on Sunday evening at Gaelic Park as the severity of the heat was declining, and there were numerous water breaks to ensure that everybody remained in a healthy hydrated state.

Still, the heat and humidity notwithstanding, Cavan annexed their 18th Sean Faherty Cup with a comprehensive victory over rivals Na Fianna. Central to that victory was the scoring exploits of Alisha Jordan, who accounted for half of Cavan’s scores as she was almost unerring from play and placed balls.

Granted Jordan’s scoring feats were very impressive, the contributions of the two Shaunas, namely Grey and Cronin, can’t be underestimated either.

Cronin, on the forty, launched several offensive raids into Na Fianna territory, while Grey at number six cut out several attacks on the Breffni goal and turned the tables by counter-attacking.

Overall it was a very solid performance from the Breffni ladies once they found their feet, plus, Rosie O’Reilly continues to be an integral part of the history of New York ladies football as she has played in all 18 finals that Cavan have won, the first was in 1992. Now do the math!

Na Fianna started very well as Sarah Everard, Margaret Brady, Roisin Howard, Mary McGinn, Shauna Quirke, and company were tormenting the Breffni rearguard, and they had four points on the board after five minutes. Howard opened the scoring with a pointed free after Quirke was fouled. Howard quickly sent over another as she intercepted a cross-field Cavan pass.

Na Fianna continued to press as the speedy midfielder Everard sliced through the Cavan defense to hit their third point in as many minutes, and soon the lead was up to four as Howard pointed a free for another foul on Quirke.  Grey managed to lift the siege on the Breffni goal as she charged up the field to send Kelly Donoghue on the attack.  The captain was fouled and Jordan got Cavan on the board, but the score was soon answered as Kelly McCormack pointed at the other end after a good delivery from Howard.

Cavan were now finding a bit more traction as Jordan cut in from the wing to land her second point, and they successfully pushed up on Na Fianna’s restarts.  Mairead Ruane was alert to one such kick out and she quickly bore down on goal, leaving Jordan the task of pointing the resultant free.

Ruane was also involved in the next score as nice interplay between her and Donoghue set up Jordan for a point.

Cavan were now camped in Na Fianna territory as Jordan added another point and Ashley Callery set up the hard-working Ruane for the lead midway in the period.

A minute later the game took a decisive turn as Jordan banged in Cavan’s first goal, which was the culmination of incisive play by Cronin and Aisling Kelleher.

Everard was doing her best to bring Na Fianna back into the game, and her efforts were rewarded with a well-executed point.  Quirke and Ruane traded points and Cavan looked to have another goal, but the play was called back for a free which Jordan pointed.

Then just before the short whistle, a trademark run through the middle by Grey looked destined for the back of the net, but keeper Claire Brown saved brilliantly to leave the scores 1-8 to 0-7 in Cavan’s favor at the break.

On resumption, Na Fianna’s hopes appeared to get a boost as Everard landed an inspirational point. However, the apparent boost was quickly neutralized as Cavan responded with three points courtesy of Grey, Jordan, and Cronin.

Na Fianna was still valiantly trying to stay in touch, though the deficit was creeping up.  Brianna Tierney made an impact off the bench as she slotted over a point, and Quirke added another, but that was as good as it got for Na Fianna.

Cavan, like a seasoned prizefighter, decided to go for the knockout. Over the next 10 minutes, they hit Na Fianna with 1-5. 

With Kelleher, Hynes and company fully opening the spigot, the flow was in full force and Jordan, Grey, Cronin, Callery, and company kept raising the flags.

Of course, the coup de grace was the goal, and it involved the two Shaunas. Cronin powered her way through the middle and let fly with a rasper, but it was parried by keeper Brown.  Unfortunately for her, it was into the path of Grey, who duly tapped it into the net. 

In fairness to Na Fianna they kept battling with some powerful and penetrative runs by Brady, McGinn, Howard, Everard, Quirke, Gormally and company in search of goals, but the Cavan rearguard of Murphy, McBrien, the Kilkennys and company were not in a giving mood. They had to settle for points from Brady (two), Tierney and Quirke, and Cavan was not exactly standing in awe of their opponents’ shot-taking as Grey, Cronin and of course, Jordan continued to add to a very impressive scoreboard in spite of the oppressive heat.

Overall the sizeable crowd that braved the heat and humidity were treated to a very sporting and enjoyable game, with the referee Mags Doherty using common sense and letting the game flow as much as possible within the spirit of the rules.

Cavan are champions once again, and as my golfing buddy, Paddy Reilly with a touch of Cavan modesty is wont to say when he relieves me of the privileges of the tee box, in their rightful place.

Team line-outs

Cavan: Nora Kilkenny, Shauna Hutton, Caroline McBrien, Katie Kilkenny, Tara Murphy, Shauna Grey (1-3), Caitlyn Hynes, Aisling Kelleher, Mairead Ruane (0-2), Ashley Callery (0-2), Shauna Cronin (0-4), Kelly Donoghue, Paula Clarke, Alisha Jordan (1-11), Caitlyn McKenna. Subs: Rosie O’Reilly, Shannon Laheen, Nadine Grace, Chloe Murphy.

Na Fianna: Claire Brown, Grainne Fitzpatrick, Katrina Lynch, Ciara O’Reilly, Mary McGinn, Stephanie Tierney, Niamh Bowden, Sarah Everard (0-3), Maggie Murray, Roisin Howard (0-3), Margaret Brady (0-2), Shauna Quirke (0-4), Fiona Gormally, Orla Gormally, Kelly McCormack (0-1). Subs: Kayla Coughlin, Brianna Tierney (0-2), Annmarie Kelly, Shannon Spillane, Heather Durkin, Catherine Brady, Sinead Gormally, Eva Walsh, Hannah Smith, Megan O’Connor. Referee: Mags Doherty (Wexford). Player of Game: Alisha Jordan.