By Mike Fitzpatrick
Cavan 2-17, Sligo 0-8
Senior Football’s Division 1 has seen some fine team performances this season. Even at this late stage, it’s still not guaranteed what sides will make the playoffs. It seems that just as we see one side fall to an unexpected defeat, they pick themselves up and win their next one, therefore climbing back into the race.
Indeed, Division 1 this year has been wide open. With Kerry on 10 points at the top of the table, Donegal also on 10 but with a game in hand over their Munster rivals, and Tyrone and Stamford, just behind on eight, it seems that this quartet will make the playoffs. The one place left then, well, who knows?
Cavan did their playoff hopes no harm at all in clinching this convincing victory over Sligo Sunday at Gaelic Park. They are now level on points with Westmeath, and just behind former champs Leitrim. So we’ve still some way to go. Cavan have had an up-and-down season, but on Sunday at the park, they looked more complete a side than they have in some time. A phenomenal display from young John Paul Smith stole the show, with the Cavan forward hitting 11 points, many of them perfectly executed free kicks.
Alongside old reliables such as Dessie Reilly and Gary McDermott, they laid siege upon the Sligo goal line throughout the tie. Going into the interval trailing by seven points, Sligo looked down and almost out. A resurgent performance in the second half would have brought them a little closer in the scoring stakes, but it was not to be.
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Cavan continued to press forward, and soon opened up a large lead, which they never looked like losing. The return to Gaelic Park of veteran Joe Cassidy gave the Blues a psychological boost that they hardly needed. Former New York All-Star Cassidy reveled in his role, clearly enjoying himself upon his return to the Cavan side after a serious injury.
Smith continued to hammer the ball over the bar, and by the end, Sligo were looking tired. Cavan’s chances of making it to the latter stages took a huge leap with this result, and depending on their next game, and perhaps just as important, the results of other sides in the division, could well sneak into the playoffs.
Cavan: Kevin Shalvey, Niall Sugrue, Cian McGrath, Barney Brady, Emmet McCormack, Liam Maguire, Francie Sheridan, Jim Gilsenan, Mick McHale (0-1), Dessie O’Reilly (0-2), John Paul Smith (0-11), Craig Kilmurray, Paddy Healy (0-1), Gary McDermott (1-0), Colm Shannon (1-1). Sub: Joe Cassidy, Andy McEvoy, Gene Reilly, Martin Reilly (0-1).
Sligo: Dermot Fleming, Eamonn Duffy, Chris McManus, Mike Gilligan, Mark Doyle, Mark Shanahan (0-1), Sean Cunnie, Martin Slevin (0-1), Peter Brennan, Paul McCormack (0-1), Enda Henry, Conor Healy, Brian Maloney (0-1), Steve Lyons (0-1), Kieran Kelly (0-3). Sub: Tom Cribben, Ray Reynolds.