at Crowe Park
At half-time, even having played against the wind, few in the Cuchulainns dressing-room could have been confident of taking two points back to Cross and Mullagh from Crowe Park last Saturday evening.
By that stage, the visitors trailed by eight points but their chances, as it turned out, were still very much alive. The vital signs were there in the first half – they had struck the woodwork three times and, playing into a gale, were much more economical up front.
And when Lacken made a fatal mistake in dropping men back, especially utilising Joe Crowe, who had been doing well bombing forward, as an extra defender, Cuchulainns took charge around the middle and timed their run to perfection.
The first half had been all one-way traffic. With Raymond Galligan the focal point of the attack, Lacken had six points on the board before Cuchulainns had registered an attack of substance.
A left-footed point from Galligan and a free from Niall McKiernan got the Celts going and when Galligan added a free after being fouled himself and Stephen Brady curled over a sweet long-range score, they were motoring well.
Better was to follow when Galligan kicked his third and then set up a hard-running Micheál Shanaghy for Lacken’s sixth but Cuchulainns finally got off the mark on the quarter-hour when Paul Taite and Conor Smith both hit the crossbar before Seamus Clarke, who had a fine match, drove the ball over the bar. A good point from Cuchulainns seconds later made it 0-6 to 0-2 but Lacken responded with a point from James Moynagh after good work from McKiernan and Galligan.
But Conor Smith was starting to cause problems at the other end and he won a free which Clarke converted to cut the gap to three, and the margin was shortened further when Gavin Daly got on the end of a good move to curl over.
Lacken had a succession of wides before they broke through for a terrific goal, Galligan laying off to the veteran Crowe who drove strongly through the centre and despatched an excellent shot to the roof of the Cuchulainns net in the 28th minute.
A good ball from Conor Smith to Gavin Daly resulted in a neat point at the other end but Cuchulainns were dealt a hammer blow moments later when Colm Sheridan created space and Niall McKiernan galloped on to his pass and tucked away expertly off the inside of the post for a fantastic goal.
And when Galligan sold a dummy and slotted over another on the stroke of half-time, Lacken were eight up, 2-8 to 0-6, as they went for their tea.
Three minutes into the second half, Niall McKiernan squeezed over a free to extend Lacken’s lead to nine points but the comeback got underway four minutes later with a Clarke free.
And Cuchulainns, incredibly, would out-score Lacken by 1-8 to 0-2 from the 42nd minute on. Conor Smith took a fist pass from Adrian Taite and after a good move and clipped. Despite the wind dying down to an extent, Cuchulainns were all over Lacken, whose formation was inviting them to attack, which they did in waves.
Clarke nailed a tricky free to make it 2-9 to 0-9 in the 45th minute and a great score from sub David Carolan, after a counter-attack the full length of the field, drew Cuchulainns closer.
A long-range free from the reliable Clarke and a lovely score on the turn from Smith 30 seconds later set up an interesting finale.
Clarke won the next kick-out and fed Smith again and he floated over a fabulous point from a tight angle on the right to make it a two-point game.
Lacken got through for their first point in 25 minutes when McKiernan converted a free after a foul on Galligan but the goal Cuchulainns had been seeking arrived moments later when Lacken were turned over in their half-back line and Clarke danced through and smashed past Colin Comerford.
There was time for more drama. Martin Brady won a free which Galligan converted off the ground to nudged the hosts back in front again but points from Clarke (a free in the 34th minute) and Evan Doughty, after good work from Smith and Clarke three minutes later, saw Cuchulainns deservedly take the points in a dramatic and pulsating close to the game.
The east Cavan side, who featured three minors in Liam Gordon, Brian Magee and Evan Doughty, will take great heart from the manner of their win; Lacken, on the other hand, are suffering a bit of a hangover from a terrific 2012 and, minus the services of Trevor Crowe and Finbar O’Reilly, are not motoring well at present.
Cuchulainns: Mark Clarke, Liam Gordon, Donnacha Dunne, Martin Lynch, Diarmuid Foxe, Rory O’Connell, Stephen Lynch, Paul Taite, Adrian Taite, Gary Daly, Seamus Clarke, Gavin Daly, Conor Smith, Evan Doughty, Brian Magee
Subs: David Carolan, Ryan Clarke
Lacken: Colin Comerford, Terry Hyland, Shane Finnegan, Damien McKiernan, James Moynagh, Kevin Shanaghy, Martin Brady, James Galligan, Micheál Shanaghy, Niall McKiernan, Conor Finnegan, Stephen Brady, Raymond Galligan, Joe Crowe, Colm Sheridan
Subs: Martin Brady
Ref: Brian Seagrave