The dew hard barely lifted off Beagh’s finest grass when Killinkere and Cavan Gaels took to the pitch to do battle, at 11:30am on Sunday last. The miserable weather doused any expectations of stylish football, but both teams did well despite the slippery conditions, and a closely fought contest saw Cavan Gaels emerge victorious by the narrowest of margins.
The home side had the best of the early exchanges, with an Emmett Fitzsimons free opening the scoring. The hard work of the Killinkere forwards when not in possession was evident throughout the match, and their tenacious tackling led to Cavan Gaels conceding another free, which Fitzsimons duly dispatched to extend their lead. Whilst the Gaels had plenty of possession, it took almost 10 minutes for the visitors to get off the mark, when Niall Collins landed a point following a poor Killinkere kick out. The home side responded almost immediately with a point from Anthony Brady reasserting their two point advantage. However this would be the last score of the half for Killinkere. Their continued dominance around the middle of the park was not matched with proficiency up front, and five wides in a row was not to go unpunished, as Cavan Gaels fought their way back into the match.
Shane Byrne pointed in the 20th minute to reduce the deficit to one point, and the Byrne was also involved in the equalising point as Liam Óg Cooke made it 3 points apiece two minutes later. Killinkere seemed short of ideas up front, exemplified by the tight marking of Cavan Gaels’ Sean Hanley on the home side’s star forward James Clarke, restricting him to just two fruitless shots from distance. Indeed it was the Gaels who took a one point advantage into the break, with an injury time free from Levi Murphy leaving the half-time score 0-4 to 0-3.
The evergreen Brian Clarke was introduced as a half time substitute for Killinkere, and it was his free a minute after the restart that drew the scores level. Clarke struck again following a great cross field ball from Kevin McCabe and assist from James Clarke, to restore Killinkere’s lead. However yet again the home team’s possession was not backed up with scores, for which they would ultimately pay the price. Cavan Gaels first scoring chance of the second half came with a goal opportunity for sub Alan O’Riordan, but his shot went narrowly wide. Emmett Fitzsimons extended Killinkere’s lead to two points, but this would be their last score for over ten minutes.
Gaels midfielders Ciaran Flynn and Ed O’Hanlon began to dictate proceedings mid way through the second half, and although it took until the 22nd for the away team to register the first score of the half, it was the catalyst for their comeback. A Liam Óg Cooke point was followed by a free from Flynn which levelled the scores. Alan O’Riordan finished off a great move to give the Gaels a lead, whilst a point in the last minute of normal time from Cormac Nelligan seemed to have put the match beyond all doubt. A pointed free from Brian Clarke in the 3rd minute of injury time gave Killinkere some hope of finding an equaliser, but failure to secure the subsequent kick out proved to be the final nail in the coffin as referee Tony Gregory blew for full time.
The match was dominated by both sides’ defences, and had an undoubted atmosphere of an early season encounter. Despite their loss Killinkere can take solace in their impressive display, while Cavan Gaels will no doubt be delighted to come out with a victory from a tricky away tie.
Teams and Scorers:
Killinkere: S. McGovern, M. O’Reilly, N. McGovern, O. Sharkey, K. McCabe, G. Denning, M. Duff, D. Smith, JB. Smith, D. Smith, P. Kerr, A. Brady (0-1), E. Fitzsimons (0-3(2f)), J. Clarke, C. Sexton. Subs: B. Clarke (0-3(2f), F. Smith, J. Tackney, D. Sexton
Cavan Gaels: N. O’Riordan, S. Hanley, S. Fitzsimons, P. Heslin, L. Murphy (0-1(1f)), C. Quinn, C. McKiernan, E. O’Hanlon, C. Flynn (0-1(1f)), L. Cooke (0-2), C. Nelligan (0-1), R. Johnston, N. Collins (0-1), S. Byrne (0-1), S. Maguire. Subs: A.O’Riordan (0-1)