Meath left to rue missed chances as Cavan rally for draw

Oh what might have been for Meath! With just 30 seconds of injury-time remaining in a pulsating NFL Div 2 encounter tonight an exhausted Ciaran Caulfield got on the end of a rampant Royal counter-attack. He took aim at the posts as Kingspan Breffni held its breath.

In what seemed like an eternity the ball hung in the air, but in the damp Cavan sky it turned late and struck the upright.

Cavan somehow scrambled the ball clear and as they countered the ball broke again before referee James Molloy sounded the final whistle to bring an end to a nerve-wracking encounter and the sides were all square, 0-11 each.

Meath will rue missed chances.

Caulfield's late chance aside Meath could, and probably should, have had it won long before then.

Five minutes into the second-half Shane Walsh was presented with a goal chance to wrap it up. A brilliant pass from Cian McBride picked out the Na Fianna man in behind the Cavan rearguard, but as Gary O'Rourke advanced Walsh tried to slide the ball underneath him.

The Cavan 'keeper did well to deflect it out for a '45', but Walsh's effort lacked conviction and composure.

Sean Brennan did convert the '45', but it was a let-off for Cavan as the gap was just four points instead of six.

Meath did have another goal chance nine minutes later when Caulfield and McBride combined to create a half-chance for Daithi McGowan, but he couldn't execute a finish and again Cavan survived.

There were also a couple of late calls that went against Meath that had a huge impact on the outcome. Meath should have had a free in the 47th minute when a Cavan defender handled on the ground, but instead the referee waved play on and Cavan responded with a point from James Smith which made it 0-6 to 0-8.

Shane Walsh launches an attack for Meath against Cavan. Photo Gerry Shanahan/

On the stroke of full-time, with the teams tied, Meath had a huge call for a nailed-on 13 metre free when Danny Dixon was fouled, but again the Galway referee ignored the calls for a free.

Cavan too had chances late on, with brilliant defending from Brian O'Halloran and Donal Keogan denying them a winner.

While a second draw of the campaign will probably ensure Meath's safety, it was certainly a case of what might have been for the Royals who dominated the opening half and deserved their 0-7 to 0-3 half-time lead.

The opening quarter of the game was a battle of the two defences. McGowan scored the only point from play in the opening 17 minutes before Paddy Lynch responded with a free in the 14th minute.

Both sides shared eight wides in that scrappy opening spell, but as the teams settled it was Meath who played the more inventive football.

Mathew Costello restored the visitors lead in the 18th minute and two minutes later Walsh opted to take his point when presented with a half-decent goal chance.

Cian Madden closed the gap to 0-2 to 0-3 in the 23rd minute, but Meath continued to look threatening as McGowan failed to get a touch to Ronan Jones's short fisted point attempt that dropped unhindered to the net.

Jones made amends with a fine score to restore Meath's two point cushion and when Brennan landed a '45', after Jack O'Connor's shot was blocked, and McGowan converted from 40 metres the Royals looked comfortable with a 0-6 to 0-2 lead.

Ciaran Caulfield in action for Meath tonight. Photo Gerry Shanahan/

Cavan piled on the pressure in the run-in to half-time with Killian Clarke denied by a brilliant block from Adam O'Neill, but from the resultant '45' McBride fouled Clarke and Lynch landed the point.

O'Connor did have the last word of the half as Meath opened up their four-point cushion at the break.

Cavan played with more purpose and directness after the break and cut the deficit to three points when Lynch landed his only score from play four minutes after the restart.

Then game Walsh's big moment, which was saved. Brennan converted the '45', but Cavan breathed a huge sigh of relief and hit points from Lynch (free) and James Smith after Meath should have had a free in.

After McGowan's goal opportunity and wide for Brennan from a long range free Smith and Eoghan Frayne (free) traded points to maintain the two-point gap with 15 minutes remaining.

Then Cavan hit three on the bounce from Lynch (free), Padraig Faulkner and Niall Carolan to go ahead for the first time in the 62nd minute.

Costello levelled again for Meath a minute later, but when they lost Ruairi Kinsella to a black card and Lynch landed his sixth point (fifth from a free) Meath looked in trouble.

Former Meath Ladies manager Eamonn Murray on the sideline for Cavan tonight. Photo Gerry Shanahan/

However a magnificent 40 metre free from the right hand side from Brennan levelled the game again and while both sides had chances to win it late on it was Meath who might have the bigger regrets as their wait for a first win over Cavan in Breffni Park since 1965 goes on.


Meath - Sean Brennan 0-3 two '45s', one free; Mathew Costello 0-2; Daithi McGowan 0-2; Eoghan Frayne 0-1 free; Shane Walsh 0-1; Ronan Jones 0-1; Jack O'Connor 0-1.

Cavan - Paddy Lynch 0-6 five frees; James Smith 0-2; Cian Madden 0-1; Padraig Faulkner 0-1; Niall Carolan 0-1.


Meath - Sean Brennan; Donal Keogan, Adam O'Neill, Brian O'Halloran; Ciaran Caulfield, Darragh Campion, Sean Coffey; Ronan Jones, Cian McBride; Daithi McGowan, Eoghan Frayne, Jack O'Connor; Shane Walsh, Mathew Costello, Cathal Hickey. Subs - Ruairi Kinsella for O'Connor 49m, Danny Dixon for McGowan 56m, Aaron Lynch for Frayne, Michael Murphy for Hickey both 61m, Adam McDonnell for Campion 64m.

Cavan - Gary O'Rourke; Jason McLoughlin, Killian Brady, Niall Carolan; Ryan Brady, Brian O'Connell, Padraig Faulkner; Killian Clarke, James Smith; Ciaran Brady, Cian Madden, Gerard Smith; Conor Rehill, Paddy Lynch, Oisin Brady. Subs - Caoimhin O'Reilly for O Brady 21m, Tiarnan Madden for R Brady, Cian Reilly for Rehill both half-time, Ryan o'Neill for C O'Reilly 53m, Oisin Kiernan (Denn) for K Brady 68m.

Referee - James Molloy (Galway).