Breffni boys pull away from rivals to leave Hyland in good spirits for season ahead
Cavan 0-16 Monaghan 1-9
The greyness descended quickly on Brewster Park, but it couldn't dull the warm glow around the Cavan squad.
MCKENNA CUP SEMI-FINAL (SF)
Yes, it's still January, but there have been darker days than this in the height of summer for football in the county.
Successful underage teams and an undeniable momentum based around a definitive game plan and some excellent footballers make these exciting times for Cavan football.
In Enniskillen, they were deserving winners over an experimental side fielded by the Ulster champions in what turned into an entertaining afternoon.
And in the classy Keating, they had the game's outstanding player, who managed six points from play.
Rory Dunne was excellent in defence and, with the highly rated midfielder Gearoid McKiernan expected to be back midway through their league campaign, there's plenty for Cavan supporters to smile about after last summer's appearance at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.
Fourteen of their points on a wet day in Enniskillen came from play, while they restricted Monaghan to just four.
Manager Terry Hyland was visibly pleased with his side, who pulled away in the final quarter after an evenly-balanced encounter.
"In fairness, all our games in the McKenna Cup have been hugely competitive, but that's Ulster football for you. That's what we like to see because it's good preparation for the league," said Hyland, who has stressed the importance of winning promotion from Division 3 in the spring.
"It's always nice to play your neighbours and I suppose that gets the intensity levels up a bit as well, but we spoke about that at half-time and the players went out and did it. It's the decision-making on the field that wins you games."
Despite starting without their two All Stars, Colin Walshe and Conor McManus, the Ulster champions settled better.
They struck first through a free from the boot of goalkeeper Rory Beggan and followed that up with a goal. Dermot Malone reacted quickest to Conor Boyle's dropping ball to put Monaghan four points to the good.
But Cavan soon settled and, as they got to grips at midfield, supply to their forwards improved. The diagonal ball to the always available Eugene Keating began to pay dividends as Hyland's men rattled off five to Monaghan's single break-away score between the 14th and 32nd minutes.
In that period, Keating was to the fore, when winning valuable possession, while impressive newcomer Philip Tinnelly helped himself to a brace of points from wing-back.
Monaghan were struggling at midfield, but remained dangerous on the break, with Christopher McGuinness and Jack McCarron pointing, but Cavan replied to keep their noses in front at the break by 0-9 to 1-5.
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke responded by introducing Dick Clerkin to centrefield.
And if the first half felt like pre-season fare, the restart had a renewed edge to it.
The sides quickly swapped a brace of scores each, with Keating and Mickey Lyng for Cavan cancelling out efforts from McGuinness and one of the points of the day from Malone.
Monaghan kept up the hunt and did enough to keep in touch but scores seemed to come a little easier to the Breffni men.
The excellent Rory Dunne was in defiant mood in the Cavan full-back line, while up front Keating was well supported.
With Cian Mackey struggling to impose himself on proceedings in the heavy traffic around midfield, the injury-plagued Lyng's influence grew.
Dessie Mone picked up a black card and that coincided with a period of dominance for Hyland's men, who opened up a three-point lead, with Keating kicking scores from a variety of distances and angles.
And when Walshe followed Mone to the bench after picking up Monaghan's second black card, the gap wasn't going to be bridged.
"Cavan finished the stronger and we have no complaints that way," conceded Farney manager O'Rourke, who remains hopeful veterans Tommy Freeman and Owen Lennon will return to the fold in the coming weeks.
"We are pleased with a lot of aspects from it. We won our last two games easily and maybe you don't learn as much as when it is a tight game, so we have learned plenty in the McKenna Cup and now it is a case of warming up for the league."
Substitute Martin Dunne kicked the last score of the game to set up Saturday's McKenna Cup date with January's form team, Tyrone, back in Brewster Park.
And with many of these Cavan youngsters having tasted championship success over Tyrone at underage level, Hyland insisted his exciting young side are out for all the silverware they can possibly win.
"It's not bonus territory for us, no," Hyland said.
"We want to win everything that we play in. The McKenna Cup is the first competition of the year, and, please God, we will come out on top of a good game against Tyrone."
SCORERS -- Cavan: E Keating 0-6, T Mooney, P Tinnelly, N McDermott (1f) 0-2 each, D Givney, K Tierney, M Lyng, M Dunne (1f) 0-1 each. Monaghan: D Malone 1-1, R Beggan 0-2 (1f, 1 '45'), C McGuinness (1f), J McCarron (2fs) 0-2 each, C Boyle, S Carey 0-1 each.
Cavan -- C Gilsenan; K Brady, J Hayes, R Dunne; P Tinnelly, A Clarke, J McEnroe; D Givney, T Mooney; C Mackey, M Lyng, M Reilly; N McDermott, E Keating, K Tierney. Subs: N Smith for Tinnelly (49),M Dunne for McDermott (60), N Murray for Tierney (65), D McKiernan for Mooney (67), P Leddy for Lyng (69), R Maloney Durham for Reilly (70).
Monaghan -- R Beggan; F Kelly, K Duffy, C Boyle; D Mone, V Corey, C Galligan; G Doogan, P Finlay; D Malone, S Gollogly, P Donaghy; J McCarron, C McGuinness, P Keenan. Subs: D Clerkin for Doogan (h-t), R Wylie for Galligan, C Walshe for Duffy (both 50), K O'Connell for Mone (56, BC), S Carey for Gollogly (56), M McElroy for Walshe (66, BC).
Ref -- C Branagan (Down)