The Breffni men came into this game as clear favourites and at different times here, they looked like they might scorch off into the distance but Tony McEntee’s dogged side took them to the wire. Indeed Sligo will leave HQ with at least a few regrets having generated no fewer than four clear goal scoring chances from open play.
Twice Oisin Kiernan cleared off the line for Cavan while the bar saved the Ulster men on another occasion. A fourth chance saw Patrick O’Connor take a point with Niall Murphy available in a goal scoring position. They were wasteful in other ways too, missing six shots on goal before grabbing their first score of the day.
Cavan can point to their own goal chances with Gearoid McKiernan twice denied by good Aidan Devaney saves but in truth, scores came a little more easily to Mickey Graham’s men. By the end of the day, all but two of their scores had come from open play with 12 different players raising white flags.
Cavan raced into a six point lead after just 12 minutes and it wasn’t until Pat Spillane’s point in the 15th minute that Tony McEntee’s side started to settle. Just a few minutes later, they got themselves back into the match. Spillane was involved again but it was former AFL man Luke Towey that made the telling break, cutting through the Cavan defence with a well timed run. The recovering Gerard Smith brought him down and though it appeared as if the initial contact occurred outside the square, Fergal Kelly awarded the penalty. O’Connor calmly slotted home. Killian Brady replied for Cavan almost immediately but Pat Hughes, who retired from inter county duty after the game, and Darragh Cummins replied to bring Cavan’s lead back to the minimum.
Sligo had been wasteful in the first half, finishing with six wides, an effort that came back off the post to be cleared as well as a couple more efforts that dropped short. Cavan kicked the last four points of the half to take a 0-11 to 1-3 lead in at the break but it could have been a more handsome advantage only for Aidan Devaney to deny Gearoid McKiernan with almost the last action of the half. The Breffni men finished the half with 11 different scorers with ten of those coming from play.
Niall Murphy came off the bench for Sligo at half time and he was brilliant on his introduction kicking four points from play. Gearoid McKiernan was excellent for Cavan too, landing three second half points as the teams went toe to toe. Twice Cavan stretched their lead to four points but Sligo were able to drag them back to within striking distance. In the end, it was Cavan who did enough to move into the final in Croke Park on Saturday July 9.
Cavan: G Smith, G McKiernan (1f) 0-4 each, J Smith, C Madden 0-2 each, M Reilly, R Galligan (1f), K Brady, K Clarke, Conor Brady, T Galligan, O Kiernan, P Lynch 0-1 each.
Sligo: P O’Connor 1-2 (1-0 pen, 1m), N Murphy 0-4, S Carrabine 0-3 (2f), P Spillane 0-2, A Reilly, D Cummins, P Hughes 0-1 each.
Cavan: R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, K Brady; Ciaran Brady, K Clarke, Conor Brady; T Galligan, J Smith; O Kiernan, G McKiernan, G Smith; M Reilly, P Lynch, S Smith
SUBS: C Madden for Reilly (31), O Brady for Smith (58), C Moynagh for K Brady (67), L fortune for Ciaran Brady (68), C Conroy for Lynch (75)
Sligo: A Devaney; N Mullen, E Lyons, P McNamara; L Towey, D Cummins, P Kilcoyne; P Laffey, P Spillane; M Gordon, A Reilly, K Cawley; S Carrabine, P Hughes, P O’Connor
SUBS: N Murphy for Hughes (HT), M Walsh for Cawley (53), D Quinn for Cummins (62), C Griffin for Laffey (63), D Conlon for Spillane (70)
Referee: F Kelly (Longford)