Cian Mackey’s introduction was vital to the Cavan cause as the Castlerahan man recorded three important points to insure the sides must do it all again. Armagh’s ploy of playing ‘keep ball’ backfired as their one point lead was soon pulled back by the Breffni men. Mackey knocked over two of the final three points in normal time while also striking the all important equaliser in extra time.
Armagh were arguably the better side throughout the contest and after Jarly Og Burns planted the ball in Raymond Galligan’s net, it seemed Armagh would pull away and confirm their place in this year’s final. Cavan’s determination and spirit meant that this wasn’t to be the case as their substitutes (Mackey and Stephen Murray) dragged them back into the game
Gearoid McKiernan struck from an early free kick to open the scoring for Cavan while Armagh could have fired themselves into the lead with their next attack, Jarly Og Burns facing a one-on-one with Galligan, only to see his shot fly past the post. Rian O’Neill did hit a levelling score for Armagh but Niall Murray’s point free allowed Cavan to go ahead once again.
Burns was on the end of another attack, this time hitting his sides’ second score to tie the game two points each. Aidan Nugent got his name on the score sheet to see Armagh in front for the first time before McKiernan again split the posts with a pointed free (4 of Cavan’s first half scores coming from the placed balls). Burns continued to attack the Cavan defence and produced his second score to see Armagh nudge ahead yet again.
The score of the half came next when Conor Moynagh received a shot kick out from Raymond Galligan and sharply turned defence into attack and an excellent effort with the outside of his right foot saw the ball sail over the bar. Niall Murray’s free gave Cavan a one point lead, which was soon cancelled out by Rian O’Neill with a free kick of his own.
Gerard Smith got Cavan’s second point from open play to see them in front while at the other side of the field; substitute Joe McElroy saw the end-to-end encounter level again. Level was how the half ended, with Rian O’Neill’s third point (his second from a free), being cancelled out by Christopher Conroy seconds before the whistle blew for the break, 0-7 each at half time.
The sides continued to slug it out at the start of the second period, Paul Hughes and Dara McVeety scored for their teams as did Jemar Hall and Niall Murray. Armagh powered ahead soon after with Jarly Og Burns bursting through the Cavan blanket and redeeming his first half miss, as he struck low to the Cavan net to see Armagh three ahead. The margin was soon four as Rian O’Neill knocked over a huge free from 45 metres out, four the biggest difference between the teams all afternoon.
Cavan had plenty of time left and didn’t panic, Niall Murray scoring two free kicks either side of an Aidan Forker point while Stephen Murray got two points after coming off the bench, his scores split by an Aidan Nugent effort, Armagh still doing enough to look the likely winners while having an extra man for the final 10 minutes, following Ciaran Brady’s dismissal.
Cian Mackey levelled matters before Jamie Clarke eased over a point with a free straight in front of the goal. Mackey would have one final say however and his second point insured the game would end all square, 20 minutes of added time needed to separate the sides, Armagh 1-13 Cavan 0-16 after the 70 plus minutes of action.
The excitement and nervous tension that engulfed the game in normal time disappeared as extra time went by slowly with neither team able to push on for victory. Gearoid McKiernan shockingly missed a massive chance to put his side ahead when his 14 metre free went right of the posts. This was the first halves biggest chance and the sides entered the final 10 minutes of the tie still level.
The deadlock was eventually broken when Stefan Campbell’s pace saw his soar past the Cavan rear guard and his fisted point looked to have confirmed the victory. As in normal time, Cian Mackey was once again the hero, his final contribution saving his side as they must do it all again next Sunday, the final score Armagh 1-14 Cavan 0-17.
Clones will once again be the battleground as part of a double header, the curtain raiser being the round 1 qualifier between Monaghan and Fermanagh. Armagh showed that they have enough to overcome Cavan the next day out and hopes of an Ulster Final are still very much on the cards.
Armagh: Blaine Hughes, James Morgan, Mark Shields, Paul Hughes (0-1), Ryan Kennedy, Brendan Donaghy, Aidan Forker (0-1), Jarly Og Burns (1-2), Niall Grimley, Aidan Nugent (0-2), Rory Grugan, Jemar Hall (0-1), Jamie Clarke (0-1), Rian O’Neill (0-4), Stefan Campbell (0-1). Subs: Joe McElroy (0-1) for J. Morgan, Ethan Rafferty for S. Campbell, Andrew Murnin for R. Grugan, Niall Rowland for A. Forker, Ben Crealey for Aidan Nugent, Charlie Vernon for J. Og Burns, Stefan Campbell for E. Rafferty
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Conor Moynagh (0-1), Gerard Smith (0-1), Killian Clarke, Conor Rehill, Conor Brady, Gearoid McKiernan (0-2), Martin Reilly, Dara McVeety (0-2), Niall Murray (0-5), Oisin Kiernan, Thomas Galligan, Conor Madden. Subs: Ciaran Brady for P. Faulkner (Black Card), Christopher Conroy (0-1) for G. Smith, Cian Mackey (0-3) for C. Madden, Stephen Murray (0-2) for Conor Brady, Oisin Pierson for T. Galligan, Jack Brady for N. Murray, Barry Fortune for C. Moynagh (Black Card), Conor Madden for O. Kiernan