Allianz FL D3: Cavan win Tailteann final rematch, victories for Offaly, Down and Fermanagh
ALLIANZ LEAGUE DIVISION THREE RESULTS
Cavan 0-12 Westmeath 1-6
Offaly 2-12 Antrim 0-12
Fermanagh 0-15 Longford 0-8
Down 2-11 Tipperary 1-11
On paper, this afternoon's Tailteann Cup rematch between Westmeath and Cavan looked like a contest that would be very relevant when it came to the battle for promotion out of Division Three of the Allianz Football League, and it's the Breffni County who will feel like they've taken a huge step in the right direction this evening after they picked up a fully-merited three point win over the reigning Tailteann Cup champions at TEG Cusack Park.
It was the home side who had the aid of the breeze for the opening half and they made slightly the better start thanks to points from the St. Loman's duo of John Heslin and Shane Dempsey, but Cavan took over from there to kick four points without reply, including fine scores from play from Dara McVeety and Ryan O'Neill.
A crucial block from Evan Finnegan to deny Heslin a goal helped ensure that Cavan led by 0-5 to 0-3 at the interval, and they kicked on after the break to lead by six points, taking full advantage of the black card for Sam McCartan.
Westmeath finally found an extra gear in the final quarter as Luke Loughlin set up a goal for Ronan Wallace while Lorcan Dolan kicked two points off the bench, but Cavan held their nerve to power across the finish line, with Pádraig Faulkner's inspirational point proving the clinching score.
Offaly also opened their 2023 account with a win this afternoon, as goals in either half from Rúairí McNamee and Bernard Allen ensured they picked up their first ever league win in Belfast.
Efficiency was key for the Faithful County, as they used the breeze well in the first half to build a 1-8 to 0-4 lead, with McNamee cleverly sweeping home their goal to capitalise on good work from Peter Cunningham in the build up.
Dylan Hyland continues to catch the eye for Offaly as he chipped in with two excellent points from play, four overall, but Antrim will wonder how things might have played out if they hadn't shot 12 wides and missed a host of other chances, including missed goal opportunities and shots dropped short.
The Saffrons did pull the gap back to just a goal going into the closing minutes, with Rory Egan saving Offaly by clearing a ball off the line at Corrigan Park, and at the other end Bernard Allen made the win save with a clever lob to score the second goal of the game.
The first game of the 2023 Allianz Football League took place in the picturesque setting that was St. Joseph's GAA club in Ederney yesterday afternoon, and the home side quickly reversed the form of the preseason competitions by recording an 0-15 to 0-8 win over O'Byrne Cup champions Longford, in a contest where the first half was full of fast, open, attacking football, while the second saw Fermanagh continue to control the game, but fail to pull away due to some poor shooting on their part.
Iarla O’Sullivan did strike two excellent points from wing back in the first half for Longford, but outside of that, Fermanagh were in complete control and were full value for their five-point interval lead. Che Cullen at full back and Darragh McGurn at centre forward were the star men for the Erne County, who kept Longford scoreless from play aside from those two O'Sullivan scores, as well as racking up an 0-11 to 0-6 lead themselves.
Seán Quigley struck five frees in that opening half while there were some exceptional points from Jonathan Cassidy, Ryan Lyons, Ryan Jones and McGurn, with Paddy Collum producing an exceptional reflex save to deny Seán Cassidy.
Longford played their best football of the game in the opening ten minutes of the second half and they cut the lead to three points through a McGivney free and Keelin McGann, but they were overwhelmed for the remainder of the game and despite Fermanagh racking up eight second half wides, including several scorable frees, there was never any doubt about the result.
Down also started well in their clash with Tipperary at Semple Stadium yesterday evening, getting off the mark through a Pat Havern score in the fifth minute of play, and they built up a 1-6 o 0-2 lead by half-time with a very polished display of controlled football that was rigidly strong in defence, and racking up turnover wins consistently. Havern was also the goalscorer after 20 minutes, having been set up by Eamon Brown.
Team captain Conor Sweeney got his team's first point from play in the third minute of the second half, and Tipperary received a further fillip when Niall McParland was dismissed for a second bookable offence two minutes later.
The lead was reduced to four points as Tipp piled on the pressure, with Conor Francis and Teddy Doyle trading goals just after the hour mark to heighten the tension going into a dramatic closing few minutes. Tipperary reduced the gap to two points while Down's Andrew Gilmore rattled the crossbar, but a second yellow card for Doyle in stoppage time was enough to allow Down to complete the scoring through a Havern free, and confirm their win.