Cavan Maintain their Flawless Start



Following an impressive start to their league campaign and comprehensive wins over both Clare and Kildare, the Cavan Ladies sat at the top of the TESCO NFL Division 2 table before their most challenging encounter to date.


Sunday saw a tough test and their first away fixture of the year against a strong, fit Westmeath team. Westmeath are a side that Cavan are more than familiar with over the past few years, particularly after the heartbreaking loss at their hands in the All-Ireland Intermediate Final Replay in 2011.


A small Cavan crowd were present at St. Loman’s GAA club in Mullingar for throw-in, which saw both teams gunning for the challenge ahead.


From the outset, Westmeath matched Cavan in terms of fitness, speed and confidence on the ball. However, one thing came to the fore which gave the Breffni side a slight edge- hunger.


Westmeath were first off the mark in terms of scoring, as full forward Jennifer Byrne pointed from play in the fifth minute. Cavan were slow to react in the early stages of the game but soon found their feet as Roisin O’Keeffe stepped up to convert Cavan’s first free of the day.


Jennifer Kane was outstanding in goals throughout the game, collecting any ball that fell short and pulling off impressive saves. Cavan’s defence settled as they worked the ball through the hands, supporting each other and linking up with the forward line.


Templeport’s Sinead Greene was strong in defence and links between Claragh Reilly, Geraldine Sheridan and Grainne Smith became apparent. O’Keeffe soon added to her tally, scoring two consecutive free kicks.


Westmeath played defensively with a sweeper in front of the Cavan full-forward line, impacting on Cavan’s scoreline. At the other end of the field, Cavan’s defence was intense, with captain Grainne Mc Glade leading by example with a solid performance.


Byrne scored her second of the day but the Breffni contingent responded immediately, defending in packs and acting more cleverly with possession. O’Keeffe slotted over her fourth free of the day while almost every blue jersey got involved in an attempt to hold possession.


Donna English was instrumental, confidently carrying the ball and battling in midfield. Westmeath’s Sarah Keegan often used a short kickout while the defence carried the ball strongly through the hands.


Laura Fitzpatrick began to get a grip of the Westmeath full forward line, accurately reading the game and getting to the ball first.


Maud Annie Foley was a key player in the Westmeath forward line and it was her work that lead to Emma Morris converting a straightforward free, leaving only a point between the sides.


Sheila Reilly showed true charater in defence while Cavan began to match rhythm of the game and adjusted to this slower tempo which required patience to work their scores.


A prime example of this came as O’Keeffe linked up with Claragh Reilly and Donna English pin-pointed Grainne Smith who kicked Cavan’s first score from play. Caitriona Smith was unlucky not to increase the margin as her fisted attempt was denied by the post just before the break.


After a low scoring and quite uneventful first half, the scoreline stood at 0-05 to 0-03 in favour of Cavan.


At the restart, Cavan were first to show any signs of danger but failed to get the ball between the posts. Emma Mc Dermott and Racheal Jordan worked hard in the backline but Westmeath soon got the lift they needed through a Karen McDermott point.


Cavan’s attempts to slow Westmeath were dampened further as Morris levelled the game subsequent to another free. Conor Barry and his management team introduced fresh legs as Aishling Sheridan and Rosie Crowe took to the field.


This proved successful as the Cavan girls showed their true character and hunger, stepping up to the mark and securing the lead as Geraldine Sheridan scored a vital point from play.


McGlade enouraged her side to push on while Mona Sheridan, Rosie Crowe and Donna English linked up leading to O’Keeffe’s first point from play.


Cavan proved the fitter side in the last few minutes of the game as Westmeath looked more tired, with attempts on goal dropping short and Cavan intercepting at any given chance.


Sarah Murray’s immense covering of the field paid off as she added to the Cavan scoreline with less than 10 minutes of play remaining. Barry introduced more experience through Caitriona “Twiggy” Smith in an attempt to hold their three point lead.


Westmeath’s Triona Durkin was sinbinned but their management team introduced substitutes in an attempt to obscure this weakness. Cavan echoed their “no goal” princple in the dying minutes, placing extensive pressure on the opposing forwards forcing them to kick wides.


At the other end of the field, impact subs Rosie Crowe and Aishling Sheridan extended the lead and cemented the victory with two impressive points. Donna English and Caitriona “Twiggy” Smith held possession and slowed the game down, showing their experience. Sinead Greene and Sheila Reilly continued to impress at the back, denying any possible Westmeath attacks.


Caron Fay, who replaced an injured Jennifer Kane, saved a weak Johanna Maher attempt while Geraldine Sheridan was unlucky with a goal chance before the referee’s final whistle.


The final score stood at 0-10 to 0-5 as Cavan deservely recorded a well earned and brutally fought victory.


This young, athletic Westmeath team surely tested Cavan with their defensive game but the true character and hunger of the Breffni girls shone through when it mattered most.


Cavan travel to Down next Sunday, in a bid to secure another three points against a side who sit at the bottom of the table and are yet to record a win.


Cavan: Jennifer Kane, Racheal Jordan, Laura Fitzpatrick, Emma Mc Dermott, Sinead Greene, Grainne Mc Glade, Sheila Reilly, Donna English, Mona Sheridan, Caitriona Smith, Claragh Reilly, Sarah Murray (0-1), Roisin O’Keeffe (0-5, 4f), Grainne Smith (0-1), Geraldine Sheridan (0-1)

Subs: Rosie Crowe (0-1), Aishling Sheridan (0-1), Caitriona “Twiggy” Smith

By Emma Duffy


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