In a game where both sides were missing a number of players which yet again prompts the age old question -- why play on the long holiday weekend? -- Cavan came away with a deserved but hard pushed victory.
Despite being behind or tied for 40 minutes of the contest, they used a good defensive performance down the stretch to negate Leitrim chances and secure the win.
Cavan did have the first two points of the game with midfielder Stephen Harold and center forward Kevin Smith the scorers.
On seven minutes it all changed, however. A long Leitrim ball into the corner looked to be going wide, but Kenny O’Connor rescued it. He soloed towards goal and punched to Paddy Daly at the opportune time to leave his corner forward with the easy task of punching to the net.
When Rory Woods followed with a point from play, Leitrim were settled. The sides had three points a piece in the next 12 minutes, with the towering shooting of Shane Sweeney and Woods for Leitrim superb.
Gearoid McCarthy had two brilliant scores for Cavan in the mix when he was found by early ball by his midfielders, and he then punished the defense with his shooting.
Smith was taking over the free taking duties for Cavan, and he punished some defensive indiscressions by Leitrim with good placed ball shooting.
The game was tit for tat, however, as Woods had a free at the other end, while O’Connor was first to a rebound off the upright to leave Leitrim ahead 1-6 to 0-8 at the break.
Cavan had a clear-cut goal chance in the first minute of the second half when Harold stormed forward and shot low. It was deflected out by the defense and the resulting 50 was dealt with easily.
The winners did have a good point after five minutes by Justin O’Halloran, but that was cancelled out by Sweeney six minutes later. Cavan were hurting themselves with a succession of wides, but they were building chances while also shutting down the Leitrim attack.
McCarthy leveled the game for the last time with a point after Paddy Smith set him up, and that was followed by an outstanding goal. The ball was worked out from the back by O’Halloran and Ronan McGinley, who carried it over 40 yards in short passes. It was then given to Smith who fired it to the net for a 1-10 to 1-7 Cavan lead.
Leitrim responded by winning two frees with Dan Doona and Woods popping them over, but good defensive play by Denis McCarthy and Paul Lambe cleared up a further three chances.
Smith had Cavan’s final point of the afternoon on 28 minutes with his fifth of the day to secure the win.
After the victory over Armagh which is now in the hands of the CCC due to an objection, this was an important win for Cavan. Paul Lambe and Denis McCarthy were very strong, particularly in the second half.
The battle between Kenny O’Connor and Alan Carolan finished in a draw. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enthralling.
Kevin Cardin had some prominent moments on his return too New York. Paddy McCullough continues to dominate; he would have been a big plus for New York against Roscommon.
Kevin Smith had his best shooting game in a long while. The responsibility of the frees helped his game. Gearoid McCarthy is having a brilliant start to his New York career.
Kieran Power did nothing wrong for Leitrim. Ger Farrell, Alan Lowney, Pat Madden, Shane Sweeney and Ken O’Connor were others to shine. Rory Woods had four points, but they were the quiet type.
Cavan: 1 Maurice Power, 2 Paul Lambe, 3 Alan Carolan, 4 Denis McCarthy, 5 Ronan McGinley, 6 Kevin Cardin, 7 Ronan Fitzsimons, 8 Paddy McCullough, 9 Steven Harold (0-1), 10 Barry McGinn, 11 Kevin Smith (0-5), 12 Joe McKeon, 13 Gearoid McCarthy (0-3), 14 Justin O’Halloran (0-1), 15 Paddy Smith. Sub: James Moore.
Leitrim: 1 Kieran Power, 2 Kieran Scannell, 3 Alan Lowney, 4 Dermot Keane, 5 Colin Cronin, 6 Ger Farrell, 7 Mike Creegan, 8 Pat Madden, 9 Paul O’Hara, 10 Shane Sweeney (0-3), 11 Dan Doona (0-1), 12 Pa Ryan, 13 Rory Woods (0-4), 14 Kenny O’Connor (0-1), 15 Paddy Daly (1-0).
Man of the match: Kevin Smith (Cavan).
Referee: Lawrence McGrath.