Credit: Louth GAA
They may have had to do it the hard way but the Louth Hurlers got their Division 3B National League campaign off to a flier with a win away to Leitrim.
The win puts them as firm favourites in the race for immediate promotion back to 3A, with two home games in Darver against Cavan and Fermanagh.
The first of those ties is against the Breffni men, who make the trip East on Sunday (Throw in 2PM) with plenty for both sides to play for.
The two sides last collided last November, during the rescheduled Lory Meagher Cup campaign that also featured fellow 3B side Fermanagh.
The Breffni men went into the contest knowing a draw was enough to seal their spot in the final and started strongly with the help of sharpshooter Brain Fitzgerald, who plays his club hurling with former All Ireland winning Dublin side Cuala.
They led by 0-4 to 0-3 after 10 minutes, but were ultimately punished for a 13 minute spell without raising a white flag, a period in which Louth bounced back with 1-5 without reply to build up a sizable cushion and lead by 1-10 to 0-7 at half time.
Cavan didn’t give up and in the second half and they kept the Wee County scoreless for 20 minutes, coupled with the sending off off David Kettle the men from the North threw everything they had at Louth.
Going into injury time the deficit had been decreased to just a single point, but it was the men in red who eked out the vital final score, Daren Geoghegan tapping over a free to book their place in the Lory Meagher final with a 1-15 to 0-16 point win away from home.
Other games between the two sides have been rare, with Louth tending to play in a higher division than their counterparts while Cavan didn’t field a Senior team for many years, but they did also meet in the National League in 2005 with the Wee County coming out on top.
Cavan competed in Division 3B of the National League last season, in what was just their third year back in the National League having withdrawn due to poor results back in 2011.
They defeated their Ulster rivals Fermanagh by 0-17 to 0-12, but succumbed to losses in their other three games against Lancashire, Leitrim and Sligo.
As stated earlier, they competed at the Lory Meagher level last year and before losing out on a spot in the final after narrowly losing to Louth, Cavan once more faced Fermanagh.
The tie was played in Enniskillen, but it was the visitors who were came out the stronger, leading at half time by 0-10 to 0-6 with Brain Fitzgerald lethal for the Breffni men.
With the men in green having a man sent off early in the second half, things looked good for Cavan but the home side finished with a flurry to ultimately clinch a draw, 0-16 to 1-13.
The 2021 season saw the two sides meet again, but this time it was the Men in Blue that needed a late surge, as tends to be the case in many Cavan matches Fitzgerald was again to the fore, this time hitting the last four scores in the game to earn his side a point at home, 1-19 to 2-16.
One common thread throughout much of Cavan's form has been the prominence of Brian Fitzgerald, who through his association with Cuala gets to play the sport at a much higher level than most of his counterparts at this level of the game.
Louth go into the contest in firm control of Division 3B following their round one victory away to Leitrim, but Cavan know a win a will put them right back in contention for promotion, a vital asset for any team hoping to make significant strides in the sport.
Paul McCormack and his team will be wary of the Ulster side’s threat, having almost been knocked out of the championship last year at their hands, but they should have enough firepower to get over the line.
Keeping Fitzgerald off the ball will be key to victory and coupled with some efficient scoring they should be sitting comfortably at the top of 3B by the end of the weekend ahead of a one week break before the final round of fixtures.
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