AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship
By Kevin Herron at Breffni Park
Lámh Dhearg 0-10-1-19 Cavan Gaels
Lámh Dhearg’s return to the Ulster football stage was a brief one as they were comfortably beaten 1-19-0-10 by Cavan Gaels in Sundays AIB Ulster Club Football Quarter-final at Breffni Park.
The Red hands were second best throughout the contest and had captain and goalkeeper John Finucane to thank for ensuring the goals against tally stood at a respectable one. Finucane was inspirational as he denied Martin Dunne and Kevin Meehan in the opening period and then clawed away Paul O’Connor’s goal bound shot in the second-half.
The Antrim Champions were looking forward to dinning at the top table in Ulster for the first time in twenty-five years, but knew that faced an opposition in Cavan Gaels who were regulars at that table and were embarking on their sixth Ulster Championship campaign in the space of ten years.
From the offset Cavan Gaels took the game to Lámh Dhearg and within the opening fifteen seconds they had raised the first white flag of the afternoon through midfielder Robert Maloney Derham who curled the ball over the bar.
Things could have been much better for the hosts a minute later when Cavan county star Martin Dunne bore down on the Lámh Dhearg goal, but Dunne couldn’t a way past an alert John Finucane.
Lámh Dhearg eventually got to grips and levelled after five minutes through pacy wing-half forward Eoin McKeown who popped the ball between the posts after dazing one or two of the Cavan Gaels defenders with his trickery.
The Lámh Dhearg goal was leading a charmed life, Cavan Gaels burst at pace and worked a second goal opportunity within the first six minutes and just as it looked as though Seanie Johnston had done enough to turn the ball home his shot crashed off the underside of the bar and out.
Martin Dunne would restore the Gaels lead through a converted free and began a run of eight unanswered scores for the hosts.
Dunne converted a second free on eight minutes and after Paul Graham turned over the resulting kick-out, Robert Maloney Kerham claimed his second point of the afternoon to give his side a 0-04-0-01 lead.
Ryan Murray missed the opportunity to cut the deficit as his shot dropped short of the target and Cavan Gaels worked the ball into the path of Seanie Johnson who claimed his first point of the afternoon.
Further point followed courtesy of Kevin Meehan and Levi Murphy before Cavan Gaels finally found the goal their play in the opening exchanges had warranted, midway through the first-half.
Robert Maloney Derham spread the ball into the path of Johnson and flowing passing move saw Michael Lyng eventually palm the ball past Finucane and into the net to give the Cavan champions a 1-07-0-01 lead.
Martin Dunne added his first point from play two minutes later and after almost fifteen minutes without a score Lámh Dhearg raised a cheer from the visiting support as Paddy Cunningham converted a free.
Pearse Fitzsimons then won the resulting kick-out and played his part in the move which saw Ryan Murray land a wonderful score as Lámh Dhearg were beginning to gain a foothold in the contest.
Seanie Johnston put an end to Lámh Dhearg’s brief purple patch, though Paddy Cunningham kicked back to back points for Lámh Dhearg for the second time to take his tally to the afternoon to three and make it 1-09-0-05 on the scoreboard.
The Lámhs didn’t create too many goal scoring opportunities throughout the game but when one did present itself on 26 minutes it was passed up; Ciaran Flaherty did well to win the loose ball on the edge of the square and pick out Domhnall Nugent in space, agonisingly for Nugent though his shot flashed low and wide of Ciaran Flynn in the Cavan Gaels goals.
In between Nugent’s missed opportunity, Seanie Johnston and wing-half forward Andrew Graham split the posts to give their side a deserved 1-11-0-05 lead and leave Lámh Dhearg with a mountain to climb.
Lámh Dhearg started the second-half on the front foot with Paddy Cunningham landing the opening score from a free and despite Martin Dunne replying at the other end Cunningham conjured up a fantastic score with his effort from the outside of the boot that sailed over in the wind.
The Antrim Champions couldn’t add to improved start though and with ten minutes of the half elapsed Cavan Gaels restored their nine-point advantage through a point from Michael Lyng.
Paul O’Connor should have put the game beyond doubt on 43 minutes but John Finucane came to Lámh Dhearg’s rescue for the third time, showing great reflexes to keep the corner-forward at bay.
Dunne hit a point in the aftermath and his side soon had three unanswered points as Barry Fortune and another from Johnston made it 1-16-0-07 with just over ten minutes left to play.
Lámh Dhearg were without a score in almost eighteen minutes despite the best efforts of Ciaran Flaherty who had saw more of the ball in the second-period, Paddy Cunningham came close to claiming his third point of the half from converted frees, but for the large post.
Ryan Murray eventually ended his side’s scoreless streak after brother Conor turned the ball over and fed his younger sibling.
Lyng, Dunne and Johnston completed Cavan Gaels scoring in the aftermath of Murray’s score and with the outcome very much a foregone conclusion points from Paddy Cunningham (free) and an excellent score from Ryan Murray ensured that Lámh Dhearg would at least hit double figures as their Ulster return ended in a 1-19-0-10 defeat.
Cavan Gaels: C Flynn, L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan (0-01), D Sexton, B Fortune (0-01),L Murphy (0-01), P Graham, R Maloney Derham (0-02), N Smith, M Lyng (1-02), A Graham (0-01), P O’Connor, S Johnston (0-05), M Dunne (0-06,0-02f). Subs: D Meehan for A Graham (44 mins), V Coyle for N Smith (52 mins), D Graham for M Lyng (56 mins), K Donohoe for P Graham (56 mins), S Higgins for K Meehan (59 mins), J Fortune for D Sexton (62 mins).
Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, P Mervyn, A McAufeld, M McGarry, D Lynch, M Herron, B McComb, P Fitzsimons, D Nugent, E McKeown (0-01), C Flaherty, C Murray, P Cunningham (0-06,0-05f), R Murray (0-03), K Quinn. Subs: C Nolan for M McGarry (34 mins), P Larkin for P Fitzsimons (43 mins), B Rice for D Nugent (46 mins), G Slane for B McComb (51 mins), S Tully for E McKeown (57 mins).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Doire)