By Peter Nolan
After a long, cold and wet day at Gaelic Park, Cavan and Rangers combined to give patrons the day’s best match in the afternoon’s finale at Gaelic Park, with Cavan prevailing.
The Cavan and Rangers senior footballers both are known for their blue jerseys and so had to switch. Oddly, this was the third such match of they day. In this case both clubs changed kits, with Cavan togging out in Westmeath maroon, while Rangers wore yellow.
Whatever colors, Cavan fans were soon waving them when full forward Ciaran Fern scored an opening-minute goal. Midfielder Paul Galligan quickly followed with a point. Rangers clawed their way back with Dave Phelan (2) and Derrick McKenna pointing to draw within a point. Cavan’s hopes took a blow when veteran and team leader Joe Cassidy was forced to the sidelines with an early injury. But Cavan adjusted and soon stretched that lead another point off the educated left boot of John Paul Smith.
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Rangers fielded an interesting lineup. Seven of their starting team had hurled for Waterford earlier in the day and manager Dennis Twomey was justly concerned about fatigue. But early on the Rangers showed no ill effects of their double duty. The first-half action was fast and furious, very entertaining football from both sides. The opening 30 minutes were nip and tuck with Cavan shading the action, 1-4 to 0-6, at the break.
The second half opened with a Cavan flurry. This Cavan side show a lot of promise. A strong defense is led by full back Eugene O’Hagan and Francie Sheridan. Paul Galligan and Gary McDermott are solid in the middle, but it’s up front where Cavan have the makings of something interesting.
John Paul Smith is a marksman at the center of the attack. Ciaran Fern is a big strong classic full forward target-man type with a fair degree of skill. Paddy Sloan was good Sunday and the two corner men were treat to watch. John Fagan and Declan Reilly always looked dangerous and each will bear watching by opposing managers in the coming weeks.
Making their Senior A debut, Rangers kept their heads up and eventually pared the arrears to 3 points, 1-10 to 0-10. Cornerback John Pendergast, one of the Waterford seven, kept pushing the Ranger attack with flying runs up from his defensive position, inspiring much of the Rangers revival.
But Cavan had too much talent overall and clinched this match in fine fashion. Full back Eugene O’Hagan intercepted well in his own 40 and took off up field, placing John Fagan with an excellent pass. Fagan gathered and fired home a great goal to settle the issue.
Man of the match: John Paul Smith.
Cavan: Michael Boyle, Kevin Shalvey, Eugene O’Hagan, Barney Brady, Francie Sheridan, Joe Cassidy, Liam McGuire, Paul Galligan (0-1), Gary McDermott, Paddy Smith, John Paul Smith (0-4), Paddy Sloan (0-2), John Fagan (1-1), Ciaran Fern (1-2), Declan Reilly (0-2).
Rangers: John Williams, Malachy McHugh, Tom Bermingham, John Pendergast, Thomas Maher, Victor O’Shea, Jason Barry, Rory Hussey, Mike Bishop, Francis Halpin, Dave Phelan (0-4), Derrick McKenna (0-3), Nestor Allen (0-1), Stuart Barry (0-1), Mike Sheridan (0-1). Sub: Aiden Sweeney.