Wednesday 18 September 2019

Clarke leads the line as Breffni boys power home

Cavan 0-23 Armagh 0-17

Oisin Pierson of Cavan takes on Armagh’s James Morgan (left) and Paul Hughes. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Oisin Pierson of Cavan takes on Armagh’s James Morgan (left) and Paul Hughes. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Underneath the stand in Clones, Cavan manager Mickey Graham admitted to getting emotional after bringing Cavan back to a first provincial decider in almost two decades.

Graham played when Cavan last won an Ulster title in 1997 and was still there when the county contested a decider four years later. There was no telling then that the county would have to wait 18 years for another tilt at Ulster glory.

Graham's Cavan team bridged that gap and did it with no little style in St Tiarnach's Park. By the time referee Paddy Neilan had brought things to a close, they had kicked an impressive 23 points, 16 of them coming from play.

The Breffni men had most of the stand-out performers on the pitch with Killian Clarke, Conor Moynagh and Dara McVeety producing big moments when the game was on the line.

By the hour mark, Cavan led by the minimum after Jamie Clarke clipped over his seventh point to set the scene for a grandstand finish.

But rather than be cowed by Armagh's admirable doggedness, Cavan flourished and kicked six of the last seven points of the game to book a date with Donegal.

Killian Clarke and Niall Murray of Cavan celebrate. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Killian Clarke and Niall Murray of Cavan celebrate. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"Of course I am (emotional)," Graham said. "I am a Cavan man and I have seen more bad days than good days. I was lucky as a player to be involved in two Ulster finals in 1997 which we won obviously and 2001 as well.

"It is a long time for a county like Cavan who have great tradition. I am emotional because I know the work those lads have put in because they fully deserve it.

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"I am still trying to gather my thoughts a wee bit. But I am delighted for them, those lads that put a lot into it and got a lot of criticism down through the years for not playing with passion and pride.

"I think you seen it in abundance there today. Armagh asked lots of questions of us mentally today and in fairness the lads came up with the answers.

Niall Murray of Cavan in action against James Morgan of Armagh. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Niall Murray of Cavan in action against James Morgan of Armagh. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Missed

"Our backs were against the wall at a stage when Armagh came back to a point, you could have folded but in fairness to them they didn't and the right lads got on the ball and made it count."

Save for the opening score of the day from Armagh's Rian O'Neill, Cavan were never headed and led by seven points at one stage in the first half.

However, Armagh missed three good goal chances in the opening period with Galligan denying both Mark Shields and Aidan Nugent, while Jamie Clarke pulled his effort just wide of the post.

Blaine Hughes of Armagh taking the ball in the air against Oisin Pierson of Cavan. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Blaine Hughes of Armagh taking the ball in the air against Oisin Pierson of Cavan. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

At the other end, Cavan were cutting right through the middle of Armagh with Gearóid McKieran kicking two fine first-half points. And by the time goalkeeper Galligan landed the first of his three long-range frees on 25 minutes, they had opened up a 0-9 to 0-2 lead.

Armagh rallied late in the half and three points in a row from Clarke saw them trail by three points (0-11 to 0-8) at the break.

The second half went along similar lines and while Armagh twice cut the gap to the minimum, they could never regain parity and eventually Cavan kicked for home.

And manager Kieran McGeeney agreed that Armagh's missed goal chances proved costly.

"I think we needed to bag a goal. We are good at them normally, getting a goal or two, and the fellas knew themselves they were missing easy chances and that can have an effect on you and sometimes you don't pull the trigger as quick as you should and you are not as confident.

"But in fairness to the lads up front even after a bad start Rian and Jamie really came into it and pushed on, it was an up-and-down game and then when we were stretched at the end they were able to knock on a couple of scores.

"It's tough but in fairness they died with their boots on."

SCORERS - Cavan: N Murray 0-5 (4f); D McVeety 0-4; G McKiernan, R Galligan (3f) 0-3 each; C Moynagh 0-2; O Pierson, M Reilly, K Clarke, O Kiernan, C Mackey, C Rehill 0-1 each. Armagh: J Clarke 0-7 (4f); R O'Neill 0-6 (4f); S Campbell 0-2; M Shiels, R Grugan 0-1 each.

Cavan - R Galligan 8; J McLoughlin 8, P Faulkner 8, C Moynagh 8; M Reilly 7, K Clarke 9, C Rehill 7; C Brady 7, G McKiernan 7; O Kiernan 7, D McVeety 8, N Murray 7; O Pierson 7, T Galligan 7, C Madden 7. Subs: C Mackey 7 for Madden (42), S Murray 6 for Galligan (48), C O'Reilly for Pierson (65), J Brady for Kiernan (75).

Armagh - B Hughes 7; M Shields 7, P Burns 6, J Morgan 6; P Hughes 7, R Kennedy 7, A Forker 7; J óg Burns 6, N Grimley 7; A Nugent 6, C Vernon 6, J Hall 8; R O'Neill 8, J Clarke 8, A Murnin 7. Subs: S Campbell 8 for Nugent (29), A McKay 7 for Vernon (31), R Grugan 6 for Murnin (44), B Crealey 6 for Hall (56), J McElroy for Morgan (66), E Rafferty for Burns (68)

Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)

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