Armagh rain on Cavan's parade
Pre-match brawl casts shadow over Orchard stroll
Armagh won the match but players and the county boards of both sides could face GAA sanctions following a series of pre-game clashes.
Armagh 1-12 Cavan 0-9 - Ulster SFC quarter-final
The bizarre and ugly confrontation kicked off as the two teams ran over to march in the pre-match parade behind the St Michael's Scout Band of Enniskillen.
Armagh took the 'inside' line which happened to be behind the Cavan flag as the band lined up on the sideline opposite the main stand.
Cavan players reacted and tried to force their way through the ranks of Armagh players and suddenly it was virtually man-for man aggro, as all hell broke loose.
Referee Marty Duffy and his linesmen tried to intervene but a lot of punching and grappling ensued for almost two minutes as the players went at it hammer and tongs.
Eventually order was restored and a version of peace broke out; amazingly, in typical GAA fashion,the ref took no action at the time.
A minute's silence was held for some deceased Gaels, and the national anthem was played without a hitch. Neither manager, Paul Grimley of Armagh or Cavan's Terry Hyland, were in a position to see exactly what happened as they were on the opposite side of the pitch.
Oddly funny in a way, but Cavan were not laughing as their talisman Martin Dunne ran over to the sidelines clutching a suspected broken hand.
An Ulster official said afterwards that Croke Park authorities will deal with the incidents once the ref's report is delivered to GAA Headquarters.
And the football? Well, it was a mixture of dogged old-fashioned Armagh blanket defence and fast breakouts, combined with some periods of good flowing play.
The home side were fed up with being written off by many, including segments of their supporters.
Training, according to reports, had been intense, with a suggestion that there had been a clash or two during the week. No problem there for Grimley, who was delighted with the six-point winning margin.
It could have been more, as his team squandered 12 scoring chances in the first half, and missed a couple of potential goal opportunities into the bargain.
"The thing about our camp is we've got fierce committed and driven men," said Grimley, who dismissed rumours of disharmony in the Armagh camp.
"I wouldn't be disappointed with that because I've never been involved in a team that there was total harmony in it. Training was tense. That's all it was," said Grimley.
The tension showed on the pitch as well, with neither side unduly troubling the scoreboard as Armagh led 0-5 to 0-2 at half time.
Hyland went for broke with three half-time substitutions, bringing on Cian Mackey, Turloc Mooney, and Robert Maloney Derham for Damien O'Reilly, Niall McDermott and Killian Brady.
Midfielders David Givney (two) and Gearoid McKiernan scored three points between them, with Keating getting another to lift Cavan to 0-6 after 51 minutes.
The home side had also nicked three scores, via Ethan Rafferty (two) and Aaron Kernan, who had come on as substitute, so the game hung the balance. And then, in the 52nd minute, came the killer blow of the only goal.
Clarke launched a skyscraper of a shot high into the Cavan half, and with three Breffni defenders and the goalie around him, Caolan Rafferty still managed to gain possession and slammed the ball into the net.
Both goalies, Philip McEvoy (Armagh) and Conor Gilsenan (Cavan) had made some important blocks, but there was not much Gilsenan could do about that fatal strike.
Kernan raided forward repeatedly, and though he missed a goal chance, he got two points, one from a free, with Clarke rounding it off to 1-12 with a late point from play.
McKiernan, Mackey and late sub Mark McKeever completed Cavan's scoring in the last 10 minutes.
Referee Duffy showed three black cards, dismissing James McEnroe and sub Maloney Derham of Cavan and Ethan Rafferty of Armagh.
From an Armagh point of view, the die has been cast. Their game will be based on sterling defensive work.
"We talked about it, we worked at it, and we came up with the system," said Grimley. "Really it's the Armagh of old that we worked with 10 or 12 years ago.
"I would rather have them play the way we did last year but it didn't work.
"I had to learn from it. It would have been madness to go into another Ulster championship match with attack the only option."
A disappointed Hyland can only hope for a run through the qualifiers.
"We are in the back door a bit earlier than we would have expected to be, but that's it, we got a good run in it last year," he said. "It's up to the lads to prepare themselves to get a run at it again."
Scorers: Armagh: J Clarke 0-4 (2fs), C Rafferty 1-0, A Kernan 0-3 (1f), E McVerry (2fs), E Rafferty (1 '45') 0-2 each, M Shields 0-1. Cavan: G McKiernan (1f), E Keating (2fs), D Givney 0-2 each, F Flanagan, M McKeever, C Mackey 0-1 each
Armagh: P McEvoy 7; J Morgan 7, C Vernon 7, A Mallon 7; M Shields 7, B Donaghy 7, C McKeever 8; K Toner 6, A Findon 7; E McVerry 6, K Dyas 7, C Rafferty 7; S Campbell 6, E Rafferty 7, J Clarke 7. Subs: A Kernan 7 for Shields (40), K Carragher 6for Campbell (51), T Kernan 6 for McVerry (57), G McCooey for Clarke (69)
Cavan: C Gilsenan 7; J McLoughlin 7, R Dunne 6, F Flanagan,7; J McEnroe 7, A Clarke 6, D O'Reilly, 7; G McKiernan 7, D Givney 7; D McVitty 7, N McDermott 7, M Reilly 7; E Keating 7, J Brady 6, K Brady 6. Subs: C Mackey 7 for O'Reilly (h-t), T Mooney 7for McDermott (h-t), R Maloney-Derham 7 for K Brady (HT), M Argue 6 for Clarke (57), J Hayes 6 for McEnroe (BC, 62), M McKeever for Maloney-Derham (BC, 69)
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).
The game at a glance
Man of the match
Ciaran McKeever (Armagh) - McKeever produced a committed defensive display of a stalwart but was always ready with a forward run to support the attack. In the 'new/old' Armagh defensive system, he's a key contributor.
Goals win games, and that was true of this ferociously contested match. The 52nd-minute goal by Caolan Rafferty was a decisive moment.
What action will the authorities take over the row which broke out as the teams lined up for the parade? It was disgraceful.
The award goes to Rafferty again because of the dogged determination he showed to claim possession and get the ball into the net.
When the dust settled, Marty Duffy's display will be seen as mixed. By and large the players settled down to typically hard championship fare after the disruption before the start, and Duffy could have awarded some black cards before he eventually showed them to three players.
What they said
Paul Grimley (Armagh manager): "I would rather have them play the way we did last year but it didn't work. I had to learn from it. It would have been madness to go into another Ulster championship match with attack the only option."
Terry Hyland (Cavan manager): "The championship is all about winning so you can't take anything from the game. I don't see any positive aspect to take from it. It's all about the win."
Armagh 15 (11)
Cavan 8 (3)
Armagh 21 (12)
Cavan 18 (11)
Armagh 2 (C McKeever 49, E Rafferty 60); Cavan 4 (D McVeety 2, J McLaughlin 23, E Keating 37, M Argue 69)
Armagh 1 (E Rafferty 70)
Cavan 2 (J McEnroe 62, R Maloney Derham 67)
Armagh 1 (E Rafferty 70)
Armagh have a June 28 date with the winners of next week's match between Monaghan and Tyrone; Cavan go into the qualifiers.