Cavan eye quarter-final spot after 'learning from mistakes'
Cavan 1-22 derry 0-20
Maybe Cavan football just needed it more.
Both they and Derry, though they wouldn't admit it, will have spent the last week looking beyond London to an All-Ireland quarter-final. For Cavan, it would represent a first appearance in the last eight since their 1997 semi-final with Kerry.
Derry have played four quarter-finals since then and as the blue shirts flooded the Celtic Park pitch at Maurice Deegan's final, final whistle as dusk fell on Saturday evening, you just felt that maybe Derry wanted it and Cavan needed it.
"It's a long time coming, but as soon as anything starts rolling, the Cavan supporters row in behind," said goalscorer Cian Mackey.
"They're ecstatic out there and it makes winning that wee bit sweeter."
His goal put the finishing touches to a win that the Breffni men deserved, but almost left behind.
Having started sluggishly and found themselves 0-3 to 0-0 down, they went 0-5 to 0-4 up with a Martin Reilly score that could have been a goal after 20 minutes.
From then until the 72 minute of normal time, Cavan were never headed.
Having struggled at midfield in the first half owing to the absence of cruciate victim PJ McCloskey, and with Patsy Bradley visibly not fit, Derry went man for man in the second half and turned the game on its head. For the last 20 minutes, it was one Oak Leaf attack after the other.
When Eoin Bradley was given a rather controversial free two minutes into stoppage-time, Mark Lynch seemed to have kicked a winning score from under the Tomas O Maolain stand.
But Cavan refused to let it go, and worked their way up the pitch for Damien O'Reilly to swing a dramatic equaliser off his left foot with the 'last' kick of the game.
The sun baked the Foyleside venue, with both teams taking 20 minutes at half-time and a further 10 at the end of normal time, but to say Cavan were fitter would be unfair.
It was simply that Terry Hyland's team got the run on it in extra-time. They scored three times in a row and led by 0-21 to 0-18 at the interval.
From there, they were just cute. They passed the ball around in circles, finding blue shirts as the white shadows trailed after them. The ball did the work.
Eoin Bradley brought the gap back to two but it was killed off when Mackey followed up after Michael Argue hit the post to finish from the tightest of angles.
"We went ahead numerous times in the game and we'd let them back into it. We knew the game was in our own hands," said Cavan playmaker Mackey.
"In extra-time, we just played a wee bit cuter than we did during the match. We learnt from our mistakes. We kicked on and we didn't let them back into the game in the last 10 minutes.
It leaves them to face London for a Croke Park date with one of the provincial winners on the Bank Holiday weekend, a position Cavan haven't found themselves in for a generation.
They've waited long enough. They've earned it.
SCORERS – Cavan: M Dunne 0-6 (5fs), M Reilly (1f) 0-5, E Keating 0-3 (1f), C Mackey 1-0, D McVitty, M Argue 0-2 each, R Flanagan, J Brady, D Givney, D O'Reilly 0-1 each. Derry: M Lynch 0-8 (7fs), J Kielt (1f), Eoin Bradley (2fs) 0-3 each, R Bell 0-2, E McGuckin, Emmet Bradley, A Devlin, E Lynn 0-1 each.
DERRY – E McNicholl; A McAlynn, C McKaigue, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, SL McGoldrick; P Bradley, C McAtamney; B Heron, J Kielt, E Lynn; R Bell, Eoin Bradley, E McGuckin (0-1)
Subs: D Brown for McAtamney (33), C McFaul for C Kielt (45), L Kennedy for McGuckin (46), A Devlin for Heron (56), Emmet Bradley for P Bradley (62), C Kielt for Brown (start of ET), B McCallion for Kennedy (65), E McGuckin for Devlin (72)
Cavan – A O'Mara; K Clarke, R Dunne, A Clarke; J McEnroe, D O'Reilly, F Flanagan; T Corr, D Givney; R Flanagan, J Brady, C Mackey; M Reilly, E Keating, M Dunne. Subs: K Tierney for Givney (36), M Argue for Dunne (56), D McVitty for A Clarke (57), K Brady for McEnroe (64), M McKeever for Mackey (67), N Murray for Dunne (66), C Mackey for Brady (73), D Givney for Keating (74).
Ref – M Deegan (Laois)