A superior second-half display was enough for Cuchulainns to see off Belturbet this afternoon at Kingspan Breffni Park and move into the next round of the senior football championship.
After a disastrous start, which saw Jason O’Reilly netting in the opening minute, Peter Reilly’s side slowly moved through the gears to eventually reduce their arrears to one by half-time before taking over in the last quarter with inside men Seamus Clarke and Conor Smith to the forefront and Paul Taite outstanding at centre-field.
The fact that the losers managed just one point in the second-half – a 39th free from O’Reilly – echoes their performance, as they simply never got going for most of this game which allowed their opponents to take the win from them in the end.
Belturbet enjoyed the dream start with talisman O’Reilly blocking the ball to the net after his goal effort was saved by Mark Clarke and the veteran forward got a hand to the clearance which saw the ball end up across the line.
With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Cuchulainns had plenty of time to recover from early blow and a Seamus Clarke free had them off the mark on three minutes.
Eoin McGuigan and Ronan Cahill extended the Rories’ lead to four before the Mullagh men began to discover a bit of rhythm with full-forward Smith sending over a brace of points from his full-forward station and Clarke trimming the deficit to one with his second free on the quarter hour mark.
A fine score from Aoghan Daly brought them level but Damian O’Reilly ended an 18-minute scoring drought through a well-struck free which Ruairi O’Connell soon cancelled out via a powerful drive from his centre-back station.
The teams looked to be heading in at the interval all square, but for some good vision from referee Martin Sexton, who saw Jason O’Reilly impeded inside and the former Cavan star tapped over the resultant free which left it at 1-4 to 0-6 at the halfway stage.
Cuchulainns dominated the opening minutes of the second-half but kicked three woeful wides before Clarke could bring them level after Smith recovered a poor pass and set up the corner-forward in front of the posts.
A Jason O’Reilly free restored Belturbet’s lead, but that was about as good as it got for John Joe Stewart’s charges as Cuchullains upped it in the final quarter to move into the lead and hold on to it until the final whistle.
First, a Clarke free brought them level before a slick move saw Smith finishing over the bar and handing the winners their first lead of the match in the 48th minute. A poor miss from Jason O’Reilly followed down the other end and when Smith grabbed his fourth the signs were ominous for the town side.
With Clarke pushing the difference to three, Belturbet hunted for a goal in the closing stages and were denied twice when Jason O’Reilly’s effort was kept out by Mark Clarke before Damian O’Reilly’s late free on the edge of the square saw Cuchulainns park the team bus in front of goal and they were successful in clearing the Cavan senior’s attempt which was followed by the long whistle.
Cuchulainns: Mark Clarke; John Flanagan, Donnacha Dunne, Liam Gordon; Gavin Daly, Ruairi O’Connell (0-1), Aoghan Daly (0-1); Adrian Taite, Paul Taite; Kevin O’Connell, Shane Smith, Gary Daly; Seamus Clarke (0-5, 3f), Conor Smith (0-4), Brian Magee. Subs: Diarmuid Fox for G Daly (HT), Evan Doughty for S Smith (47), Stephen Lynch for K O’Connell (49).
Belturbet: Danny Anscombe; John Cahill, Peter Shannon, Ben Murphy; Mark Lawlor, Kevin McConnell, Justin McDonald; Eoin McGuigan (0-1), Damian O’Reilly (0-1, 1f); Ronan Cahill (0-1), Niall O’Reilly, Donal McDonald; Niall Lawlor, Jason O’Reilly (1-2, 2f), Barry O’Reilly. Subs: Cillian O’Reilly for B O’Reilly (47mins), Dillion Donnelly for R Cahill (53).
Ref: Martin Sexton (Cavan Gaels) – Courtesy of www.hoganstand.com