Lory Meagher Cup Round 2
By Larry Cooney
Lancashire’s hurlers hopes of a Croke Park appearance next month are back on track after a thoroughly deserved 12-point victory over Cavan in sunny Ballyconnell last Saturday afternoon.
But similar to their last visit to the home of Kildallan GAA it was far from as straight-forward as the final score-line might suggest.
The Exiles required extra-time on their previous trip to north Cavan before finally seeing off Leitrim in the league decider.
While they were in sight of the winning post long before the final whistle on this occasion, the feisty Breffni men still managed to give them some very anxious moments before they finally struck the kind of form that recently earned them promotion to Division 3A.
Lancashire’s surprise first round defeat to Sligo in Manchester also seemed to affect the team’s confidence at times in the opening half, when they had the benefit of a strong wind blowing into the pavilion end.
Thankfully for them the free-scoring Ronan Crowley was on his game, hitting 0-16 of their total.
But while Ronan Crowley also had plenty of support keeping the scoreboard ticking over, it was the team’s superb second-half performance, especially in their half-back line, that finally tipped the balance in favour of the impressive Exiles.
The team now has the benefit of a weekend off before travelling to Enniskillen on Saturday 9 June. Victory over Fermanagh will clinch a place in the Lory Meagher Cup final in Croke Park on 23 June, where they will also have an early opportunity to avenge their first round defeat by Sligo – the 2016 defeated finalists.
Having opted to play with the benefit of the wind from the throw-in Lancashire soon began to dominate possession. They could have got off to a flier in their first attack when an Edmund Kenny goal-bound attempt was saved by Darren Sheridan and scrambled to safety.
But Ronan Crowley was soon off the mark with the first of his 14 successful placed balls. However, a foul on Kevin Conneely enabled midfielder John Sheanon to equalise from the resultant free by the fourth minute.
The sides were still tied at 0-2 each by the tenth minute before six unanswered points for Lancashire finally began to reflect the visitors’ domination after 20 minutes.
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Five of those scores were from Ronan Crowley frees and a fine effort from Nathan Unwin – the Exiles’ first score from play in the 18th minute.
But two John Sheanon points, including his second free, kept Cavan in touch before further scores from Stephen Duncan and Edmond Kenny and another Ronan Crowley free opened up a 0-11 to 0-4 lead by the twenty-seventh minute.
However, after the Lancashire defence found itself dragged out of position an unmarked Colum Sheanon made no mistake for the opening goal in the 33rd minute.
Although Lancashire recovered well from the concession of this goal with points from Ronan Crowley, Edmond Kenny and Tommy Duane, they were then hit by another sucker-punch of a goal just on the stroke of half-time.
Anthony Sheridan took advantage of a defensive mix-up to goal and leave just three points between the teams when the half-time score read: Lancashire 0-14 Cavan 2-5.
A three-point lead never looked like being adequate enough to defend facing the elements in the second half, but a completely re-energised team emerged on the resumption of play.
Although Cavan got the best of starts to draw level by the 40th minute, Lancashire always had the perfect response and never panicked.
An early successful 65 from Ronan Crowley, conceded after another fine save by Darren Sheridan from a Darren Crowley attempt, was followed three minutes later by a third Cavan goal from Cillian Sheanon. And within a minute the sides were level from a Sean Keating point.
But a menacing run from JJ Dunphy at the Cavan defence finally led to an opening for Edmond Kenny, who made no mistake to finally beat Darren Sheridan to put Lancashire back into the lead with a goal after 42 minutes.
And although a Kevin Conneely point reduced the Cavan deficit to two points just two minutes later, five unanswered points in a 12-minute period put the visitors completely in the driving-seat.
When substitute defender Eugene Hill was sent off on the hour, Cavan’s misery was complete as they trailed by 1-20 to 3-7.
Although Lancashire also had Daire Maskey dismissed before the final whistle, the visitors still outscored an outplayed Cavan by 1-4 to 0-2 to run out deserving 12-point winners.
Late substitute Sean Power took advantage of a defensive mix-up to raise Lancashire’s second green flag to put the ‘icing on the cake’ of another memorable victory.
“I was not happy with the situation at half-time naturally enough but I have great belief in this tremendous bunch of lads,” said Lancashire manager Stan Murray-Hession.
“Sligo was a match we should not have lost and it made Saturday’s match all the more important having to face a full strength Cavan team in their own back-yard, but I pleaded with them to remember the sacrifices they have all made to be part of this team and to ensure that they did themselves justice.
“By God did they deliver in the second half.”
Scorers: Lancashire – Ronan Crowley 0-16 (0-13)f(0-1)65, Edmond Kenny 1-2, Sean Power 1-0, Darren Crowley 0-2, Nathan Unwin, Stephen Duncan, Tommy Duane and JJ Dunphy 0-1 each. Cavan – John Sheanon 0-5(0-2)f, Anthony Sheridan, Colum Sheanon and Cillian Sheanon 1-0 each, Joshua Crowe 0-2, Sean Keating and Kevin Conneely 0-1 each.
Lancashire: Pa Coates; Liam Knocker, Ross Mullins, Justin Cleere; Simon Wallace, Greg Jacob, Nathan Unwin; Stephen Duncan, James Fitzmaurice; Darren Crowley, Tommy Duane, JJ Dunphy; Daire Maskey, Edmond Kenny, Ronan Crowley. Subs: Sean Power for Tommy Duane 67. Sean Hannon for JJ Dunphy 69.
Cavan: Darren Sheridan; Neasan Neary, Mark Hayes, Mark Moffett; Ronan O’Hagan, Paul Sheridan, Matthew Hynes; John Sheanon, Anthony Sheridan; Colum Sheanon, Kevin Conneely, Joshua Crowe; Cillian Sheanon, Sean Keating, Philip Brady. Subs: Caolan Kelly for Mark Moffett 25, Eugene Hill for Ronan O’Hagan 47, Emmet Magee for Philip Brady 67, Lonan McKenna for Anthony Sheridan 69, Dominic Crudden for Mark Hayes 69.
Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin).