While Westmeath had the first point of the second junior football semifinal on Sunday, it proved to be one of the few highlights of the game as Cavan used all their weapons to easily qualify for the junior final and a tilt with Longford on Sunday.
Dominance in a host of positions for the Breffni Boys was the difference, with the center line of Owen McPhillips, Tommy Warburton and Eoin Ward instrumental throughout the hour.
Darren Moore opened the scoring with a chip from the left, but Cavan reacted with Eoin Ward driving through and crashing a thunderbolt off the bar to state their intent. Almost immediately however Luke Loughlin, fresh off his endeavors with Ulster hurlers, blasted wide from close range to take the cobwebs off.
Cavan reacted with a brace from Ryan Hennessy and the advancing Warburton, and they also had a goal chance from McGinn denied by the diving Ray Coyle.
Against the run of play, Westmeath went in front. Keith Scally set off on a long run from the back. With the center opening up he carried forward and shot low to the net for a 1-1 to 0-3 advantage.
Cavan reacted positively and had a Steve O’Connor free when Liam Farrell was fouled before they had a goal of their own when Hennessy reacted first to the rebound of a Barry Dalton point effort that came back off the upright. The corner forward gathered beautifully and tucked the liathroid in the trammon.
After a Loughlin point Cavan responded with a trifecta as the first half came to a close. Hennessy, Ward and Hennessy again all hit the mark for a 1-6 to 1-2 Breffni lead.
In the second half both sides had four scores, but as is the mantra from many a coach, goals win games. It was the brace from Cavan that kept Westmeath easily at bay.
They extended the lead with points from McGinn and Warburton again, before Loughlin had his third. Scally did most of the work, and his battle with fellow New York panelist Ward was extremely entertaining.
For 10 minutes the game stayed between the 21 yard lines with defenses on top and chances limited. When play in the box resumed, it did so with gumption.
Four clear cut goal chances within two minutes had the small crowd on the tip of their seats as the rain clouds gathered over Gaelic Park.
Firstly, Luke Loughlin again had a goal chance for Westmeath. If his shot had hit the net it would have been a two point game. It didn’t as it cannoned off the foot of the post.
On the resulting clearance, Cavan galloped to the other end and Coyle was called into action again as he stopped a Rory O’Connor piledriver when sub Seamus Kelly set him free, before the ball was driven wide.
After winning the resulting kick out Hennessy hit the outside of the upright four feet up. Seconds later O’Connor was free on goal but shot wide from a scorable position. It was fantastic stuff.
The Ciaran Shields introduction of Kelly was about to pay huge dividends. With eight minutes remaining, the Wexford native linked with Ward and calmly slid the ball to the net. He was also picking up a lot of ball in the half forward line and did something positive with each possession.
Vinnie Gavin did have a superb point on the run for Westmeath, but Stevie O’Connor fired the third Cavan goal with five minutes left to increase the lead to 3-8 to 1-4.
The losers added points from Farrell and Fagan but they could never get close enough for the goal, or two, that they so badly needed.
Cavan had impressive displays at the defensive end from McPhillips, O’Reilly and Warburton against his native county and Rory Braden. The experience was a telling factor in the tough opening moments.
Galligan did a lot of tough work in the middle and helped to keep Gavin and Farrell at bay. Eoin Ward had a quite game by his standards. He is in line for player of the year in this division.
McGinn, Hennessy and Steve O’Connor were all lively and were not afraid to attack the posts. Seamus Kelly was brilliant off the bench and will challenge for a starting slot next week.
For Westmeath, Ray Coyle was tremendous. He kept his side in the game with a couple of timely stops. Keith Scally, Vinnie Gavin, and Luke Loughlin also battled hard throughout.
Cavan: 1 Mark Galligan, 2 Dan Shanaghy, 3 Owen McPhillips, 4 Dan King, 5 Brendan O’Reilly, 6 Tommy Warburton (0-2), 7 Rory Braden, 8 James Galligan, 9 Rory O’Connor, 10 Colm McGinn (0-1), 11 Eoin Ward (0-1), 12 Liam Farrell, 13 Ryan Hennessy (1-3), 14 Barry Dalton, 15 Stevie O’Connor (1-1). Subs: Seamus Kelly (1-0).
Westmeath: 1 Ray Coyle, 2 Steve Keating, 3 C Brady, 4 Niall McMahon, 5 Keith Scally (1-0), 6 Liam Butler, 7 Seamus Skeffington, 8 Vinnie Gavin (0-1), 9 Jeff Farrell (0-1), 10 Garry Moore, 11 Anthony Kelly, 12 Danny Fagan (0-1), 13 Luke Loughlin (0-2), 14 James Stones, 15 Darren Moore (0-1). Subs: Paul Mulhearne, Dave Russell.
Referee: Peter McCormack.
Man of the match: Owen McPhillips (Cavan).