Clare spurned chance of a home win against Cavan in Cusack Park as the lead shifted over and back before they finally settled for a share of the spoils. The result may yet prove costly for Clare by the conclusion of the league in two months time.
Clare 2-09 Cavan 1-12: Allianz Football League Div 2 Round 1
Last season, Cavan finished second from bottom in the top tier and were relegated. It certainly looked as if they would be on the losing side when Keelan Sexton gave the Banner a 71st-minute lead but their hero of the hour, Bryan Magee, rescued an unlikely point for the Breffni men in a game that was watched before an attendance of 1,400 people.
The last occasion when these two counties met in league action was 16 years ago which resulted in a 1-12 to 0-07 victory for Cavan at Miltown Malbay in 2002.
Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan saves from Ciaran Russell.
Clare started with the advantage of a strong breeze at their backs in the first-half as they looked to build up a significant lead by half-time, however, their plans were in disarray when disaster struck with a Cavan goal inside the opening minute.
Conor Madden was a late appointment to the Cavan starting 15 in place of Adrian Cole, and he provided the pass for Dara McVeety who put Caoimhin O’Reilly through to finish to the roof of Killian Roche’s net inside the first minute.
Conor Finucane, Eoin Cleary and Keelan Sexton all scored from play within five minutes to level matters before Bryan Magee restored a temporary Cavan lead.
Eimhim Courtney struck for a Clare goal after Cavan netminder Ray Galligan was dispossessed by Sexton and Clare held a 1-07 to 1-02 half-time lead thanks to further scores from Cleary (2), Gearoid O’Brien and Conor Finucane. Cathal O’Reilly had Cavan’s solitary response.
On the day both sides fielded up to 16 debutants showing the faith that both managers had in their respective panels. Colm Collins gave game time to 10 players under the age of 24 while no-one over 30 started.
Former All-Star nominee Cian Mackey was introduced by the Cavan management on the resumption and he kicked two invaluable points, but Gary Brennan, Gearoid O’Brien and Cathal O’Connor pointed for Clare to give them a 1-10 to 1-04 advantage by the 44th minute.
At this juncture, with over 66% of the game played, it was shaping up for a Clare win as they were in apparent control of proceedings and looking confident in themselves.
There followed ten minutes of inaction with neither side managing a score, however from a Clare perspective they were beginning to lose impetus and Cavan were attacking more regularly albeit without scoring but that changed with stunning speed in the final quarter.
Cathal O’Connor is first to the high ball
Cavan scored 1-2 inside a minute. Once again Mackey was involved in the goal when his shot was saved by Roche and Dara McVeety fisted the ball to the net after the Clare rearguard were dispossessed with ease. This proved a hammer blow for Clare who failed to settle from the kick out.
Ciaran Brady and Cole added further points before Gary Brennan received a black card from Wicklow referee Anthony Nolan for an off-the-ball incident in the 58th minute.
Brennan and his team-mates were clearly stunned at the decision and went from six points clear to just the minimum in less than three minutes.
Cavan buoyed now by the confidence of taking control of the game, had the stiff breeze, vocal support and all of the momentum behind them as points from McVeety and Oisin Kiernan gave the Breffni men a 2-08 to 1-10 lead entering injury-time.
Both sides made a number of substitutions in the final twenty minutes but it appeared Cavan had the stronger bench. Clare were now hanging on for dear life hoping for some solace after 50 minutes of well drilled play.
Eoin Cleary, who was making a welcome return to the Clare colours after an injury-enforced lay off, levelled things up before Kilmurry attacker Killian Sexton gave Clare hope of both league points.
However Magee was having none of this and he struck for a 72nd minute equaliser to send Clare off to Navan next week looking for a stronger last quarter finish and a result.
CLARE: Killian Roche; Cian O’Dea, Cillian Brennan, Gordon Kelly; Jamie Malone, Ciaran Russell, Pearse Lillis; Gary Brennan (0-1), Cathal O’Connor (0-1); Alan Sweeney, Eoin Cleary (0-4), Gearoid O’Brien (0-2), Conor Finnucane (0-2), Keelan Sexton (0-2), Eimhin Courtney (1-0). SUBS: Darragh Bohannon for Brennan (black card), Kieran Malone for Sweeney, Sean O’Donoghue for Courtney.
CAVAN: Raymond Galligan; Donal Monahan, Padraig Faulkner, David Phillips, Darragh Kennedy, Ciaran Brady (0-1), Oisin Kiernan (0-1); Killian Clarke, Jack Wharton, Enda Flanagan, Dara McVeety (1-1), David Brady; Caoimhin O’Reilly (1-01), Conor Madden, Bryan Magee (0-02). SUBS: Conor Moynagh for Wharton, Niall McKiernan for Madden, Cian Mackey (0-2) for Kennedy, Adrian Cole (0-1) for D Brady, Ryan Connolly for O’Reilly, Conor Brady for McKiernan.
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).