It took just 13 seconds for Cavan to gain the advantage and for the next 70 plus minutes of championship action the numbers on the scoreboard changed but the lead never switched hands. Drive, pace and determination were the catalyst for Cavan’s victory, with the Breffni men overcoming their Monaghan rivals for the first time since 2001.
The game could be summed up with the first piece of action on the night. Monaghan’s midfield pairing Fintan Kelly and Kieran Hughes could only stand and gaze as Geroid McKiernan rose high into the air to claim the opening throw up. A swift kick pass towards the attack was captured by Thomas Galligan with the on running Conor Madden there for support. Quick hands from Dara McVetty left Conor Brady through to kick the opening score of the game, a long night awaited Monaghan it seemed.
Niall Murray split the posts to double the margin while the next three minutes were dominated by playmaker Martin Reilly. Reilly’s expertly weighed ball saw Madden face one-on-one with Rory Beggan, only to be fouled for a penalty, albeit a harsh one. Reilly stood up and slotted home from 11 yards.
Monaghan’s next attack saw the ball turned over and with the counter attack Conor Madden put his side 1-3 to no score ahead, Reilly involved twice in the free flowing move. Monaghan recorded their first score with 9 minutes on the clock, after a brave turnover from Kieran Hughes saw him fouled, Rory Beggan splitting the posts from the free.
Hughes was again involved in Monaghan’s second score as he fetched the resulting kick out and set up another attack, with Fintan Kelly being fouled straight in front of the goals. Conor McManus this time converted while Geroid McKiernan built on Cavan’s momentum with a superb right footed score; their accuracy in front of goal telling the tale as they converted 5 from 6 scoring chances in the first 16 minutes.
Niall Murray then split the posts for Cavan before McManus hit the target once more with a free kick. McManus’ effort was soon cancelled out as McKiernan struck a point from a placed ball, while wing half back Conor Rehill roamed forward to aid the attack and kicked another score to see his side lead by 7.
McManus hit his 3rd of the evening with another free kick while at the other end a defence splitting Martin Reilly pass saw Madden through on goal once again, with the corner forward this time opting to chip the ball over the bar. This saw an end to an action packed 35 minutes of play, with the underdogs Cavan ahead at the interval 1-8 to 0-4.
Incredibly Cavan’s defence saw Monaghan reduced to just 4 points in the opening half, while even more astonishingly, the Farney men failed to score from play. Monaghan’s forwards must carry some of the blame of course, as their shot selections were certainly questionable, hitting 0-4 from their 14 shots.
Cavan’s attack on the other hand was crucially crisp and direct with their pace and off the shoulder running creating gaps in the Monaghan defence. Cavan had one more shot than their opponents in the opening half, converting 9 of their chances, with 6 different scorers throughout the opening period.
Similar to the first half McKiernan gathered possession from the throw up which saw Cavan score before the clock had reached 60 seconds, McKiernan himself getting forward to knock over a free. Then came the Monaghan comeback that the crowd had wastefully expected in the first 30 minutes, recording six of the next seven scores to bring them right back into the game.
Shane Carey started the revival with a score with Monaghan, now dominating the Cavan restarts. Rory Beggan kicked a free coming from a foul in the middle third while a Martin Reilly turnover in his own six yard box denied a possible Monaghan goal chance, creating the counter attack which saw Dara McVetty get his name on the score sheet.
Monaghan kept producing attack after attack and Conor McCarthy, Shane Carey and Rory Beggan (free) all scored to reduce Cavan’s lead to the goal. Cavan had waited 15 minutes for their next white flag to be raised and it came from an unlikely source, Padraig Faulkner, the full back forgetting his man marking duties to steal forward and give Cavan a much needed boost.
What one number 3 can do, so can the other as Conor Boyle broke forward to swing a point and put the pressure back on the Cavan men. Cavan soaked up the pressure however and pressed forward for McKiernan to again score with his weaker right foot after Galligan had laid the ball off.
Substitute Chris Conway scored from the dead ball with time almost up while Monaghan yet again went in such of a goal, Kieran Hughes’ free kick as close as they came, as the Scotstown man drove the ball over the black spot. The referee called for the ball to spark the Cavan celebrations as they march on to the Ulster semi final in two weeks time where they await the winners of Down and Armagh.
A nervy second half ensured a hectic finish but Cavan’s dominating first half provided the platform on which they built their victory. They constructed a handsome half time lead and withheld the Monaghan wave, denying them any clear goal opportunities which would have surely gave Monaghan a much needed confidence boost.
Martin Reilly and Geroid McKiernan covered every blade of grass in Kingspan Breffni Park while they lesser known names like Conor Rehill and Thomas Galligan performed brilliantly in a deserved 1-13 to 0-12 victory.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner (0-1), Conor Moynagh, Gerard Smith, Killian Clarke, Conor Rehill (0-1), Conor Brady (0-1), Geroid McKiernan (0-4), Martin Reilly (1-0), Dara McVetty (0-1), Niall Murray (0-2), Oisin Kiernan, Thomas Galligan, Conor Madden (0-2) Subs: Ciaran Brady for O. Kiernan, Chris Conroy (0-1) for G. Smith, Cian Mackey for C. Madden, Jack Brady for C. Moynagh, Stephen Smith for T. Galligan Blood Sub: Ciaran Brady for J. McLoughlin
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-2), Drew Wylie, Conor Boyle (0-1), Ryan Wylie (0-1), Karl O’Connell, Colin Walshe, Paudi McKenna, Fintan Kelly, Kieran Hughes (0-1), Dessie Ward, Dermot Malone, Shane Carey (0-2), Ryan McAnespie, Conor McManus (0-4), Stephen O’Hanlon Subs: Conor McCarthy (0-1) for P. McKenna, Kieran Duffy for D. Malone, Micheal Bannigan for S. O’Hanlon, Owen Duffy for D. Ward, Niall Kearns for S. Carey, Dessie Mone for K. O’Connell