Allianz HL D3B Final: Cavan pip Letrim
Allianz Hurling League Division 3B Final
CAVAN 0-17 LEITRIM 0-16
By Paul Fitzpatrick at Abbotstown
Cavan hurlers are National League Division 3B champions after they edged Leitrim in a thrilling contest by the minimum margin.
Cootehill Celtic youngster Rian Delaney was the hero, coming off the bench to fire over the priceless winning point. The closing stages produced almost unbearable tension as Cavan held on throughout a surprisingly lengthy nine minutes of injury time.
In the end, though, Cavan, who never trailed, stood strong to claim rare adult silverware.
When the sides met earlier in the campaign, Cavan ran out four-point winners and another very close contest was anticipated here.
Cavan were the better side in the first half and by the midway point, the Breffni men had built up a 0-11 to 0-8 lead.
Kilkenny native Canice Maher, a former Leinster Minor Championship-winning captain with the Cats who is now based in Cavan, opened the scoring with a 50-metre point and from there on, Cavan managed to keep their noses in front.
A huge score from Maher was cancelled out by a long-range free from Leitrim’s outstanding performer, midfielder Gavin O’Hagan.
Nicky Kenny hit back with a trademark point off his left side but Leitrim again responded quickly, this time Joe Murray firing over.
Maher (one 65, one free) made it 0-5 to 0-2 in favour of the Ulster side with 11 minutes played but an impressive score from late call-up Sean Markem and another from O’Hagan made it a one-point game.
Cavan full-forward Diarmuid Carney created a chance which Maher finished and after captain Mattie Hynes turned over possession, Kenny sent over a quality score to leave three between the sides again.
But an experienced Leitrim side were proving hard to shake off. O’Hagan (free) and Kenny, from play, traded scores and Ollie Bellew’s men pulled four clear for the first time when Hynes and Carney combined to set Maher up for another point from long range which made it 0-9 to 0-5.
O’Hagan replied with a free but Cavan quickly hit back, Kenny showing slick footwork to back-peddle out of traffic and stickwork to match as he split the posts for the best score of the half.
O’Hagan, who was superb, knocked over another after winning a break off Murray and wing-back David McGovern, playing just a couple of miles away from his home club of St Peregrine’s, popped up on and overlap and added his name to the scoresheet.
That man Maher had the final say of the half with another free to send the Blues in at the interval holding a three-point lead.
Cavan extended their advantage on the resumption with two scores from the outstanding Kenny but Leitrim kept chipping away and landed a brace of their own through Murray.
A good run from full-forward Carney created a chance for Maher to register again but Leitrim again were on the mark with an inspirational score from former county footballer Conor Beirne.
Kenny again came up trumps with another quality effort for Cavan and when Maher sent a 65-metre free over the black spot, it appeared Cavan had weathered the storm.
But Leitrim dug deep once more. Murray and Michael Dervan (with an 80-metre free) cut the gap to two as the rain poured down and Olcan Conway’s charges piled on the pressure.
An O’Hagan free cut the gap to the minimum as the game ticked into injury time.
Leitrim had a few chances which drifted agonisingly wide, either side of a McGovern free which tied the game for the first time with four minutes of injury time played.
On a rare foray forward, Delaney – grandson of Cavan football legend Charlie Gallagher – pounced on a break and hooked over a classy point which looked like the winner. And so it proved to be, although it took another five minutes and a couple of close shaves before the final whistle sounded to scenes of jubilation among the large travelling Cavan crowd.
Cavan: Darren Sheridan, Shane Briody, Dominic Crudden, Liam Óg Cooke, Jack Barry, Cillian Sheanon, Matthew Hynes, Dillon Mulligan, Nicky Kenny (0-7), Tom Leonard, Canice Maher (0-9, 3f, 65), Colum Sheanon, Sean Keating, Diarmuid Carney, Colin Gargan. Subs: Rian Delaney (0-1) for S Keating (51), Anthony Sheridan for C Gargan (57), Mark Moffett for D Carney, Philip McCabe for Cooke (both 66), Enda Shalvey for T Leonard (70)
Leitrim: Clement Cunniffe, Paul Lenehan, Aaron McLoughlin, Kevin Clerkin, Martin Feeney,Sean Markem, David McGovern (0-2, 1f), Enda Moreton, Gavin O’Hagan (0-6, 4f), Stephen Goldrick, Joe Murray (0-3), Sean Markem (0-1), Tadhg Brannigan, Conor Beirne (0-1), Liam Moreton. Subs: Sean O’Riordain for A McLoughlin, James McNabola(0-1) for K Clerkin (both ht), Ethan Clancy for T Brannigan (47), Michael Dervan (0-1f) for S Markem (63)
Ref: Peter Owens (Down)