By Mike Fitzpatrick
Cavan 3-9, Westmeath 0-11
Westmeath’s recent victory in the annual sevens tournament had many of the Gaelic Park faithful wondering whether they could transfer this success to full 15-aside glory. The answer, from this senior football Div. I performance, was, no they couldn’t.
Cavan had a disappointing season in 1999, and hoped to get off on a better footing this year. Having walloped defending champions Leitrim last year, Cavan slipped and fell perilously close to relegation. That is a scenario that they hope to avoid this year.
On Sunday’s performance, I feel Cavan can do a whole lot better. A solid backline, a creative midfield, and an exciting forward line bolstered by the recent acquisition of speedy half forward Emmet McCormack from Monaghan has, to this reporter’s eyes, done a whole lot for their prospects this season.
The game opened with Westmeath’s goalie Kevin Wilson blocking a shot from Cavan’s Paul O’Connor, and minutes later we had our first score of the afternoon from the boot of Westmeath’s Ciaran Ryan.
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It was a short held lead however, as Cavan’s Colm Shannon shot past Wilson for the first goal of the afternoon. It was an even keeled first half, with the heavily marked Westmeath forward Declan Browne hitting three consecutive points before the break, and Dessie O’Reilly, Shannon and the excellent Jim Gilsenan, of Cavan’s midfield, hitting back for Cavan. All level at half time, the sides entered the fray for the second half equally determined to put one over their rivals.
The second period opened with a flurry of activity on either end of the pitch. Browne hit another couple for Westmeath, and assisted in two points for his teammate Lee O’Brien. Cavan, however, upped their gear, and some fine forward play from Emmet McCormack resulted in Thomas Blake hitting a fine point for his side.
McCormack immediately followed this effort with a point, and Cavan were inching ahead. Some phenomenal acrobatics in the Cavan goal from Paul O’Dowd prevented Ciaran Walsh and Browne from hitting the target. After McCormack scored Cavan’s deserved third goal, O’Dowd saved another from Westmeath’s Browne, after he had unluckily hit the crossbar.
Cavan’s skill prevailed on the day, but Westmeath must be cursing fate, and also perhaps, the brilliance of Cavan goalkeeper Paul O’Dowd, who’s saves really made a difference to the tie’s outcome.
Westmeath: Kevin Wilson, Peter Dalton, Frank Kavanagh, Jimmy Hughes, Tom Moriarty, Mark O’Brien, Collie Mathers, Ciaran Walsh, Ciaran Ryan (0-1), Tom Quinn, Lee O’Brien (0-3), Barney Healey, Dermot Kenny, Brian McCabe (0-1), Declan Browne (0-6)
Cavan: Paul O’Dowd, Niall Sugrue, Kieran Reilly, Liam Maguire, Junior O’Connor, Joe Cassidy, Barry Annette, Jim Gilsenan (0-1), James McSweeney, Emmet McCormack (1-1), Dessie O’Reilly (1-2), Paul O’Connor (0-1), Thomas Blake (0-2), Andy McEvoy (0-1), Colm Shannon (1-1). Sub: Nestor Allen.
Man of the match, Jim Gilsenan (Cavan).
Referee, Tommy Fahey.