Sunday 18 August 2019

Cool Mackey rescues Breffni to set up Armagh replay

Ulster SFC semi-final (aet) Armagh 1-14 Cavan 0-17

Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Orla Bannon

Given Antrim (in 2009) contested an Ulster SFC final more recently than either of these nervous hopefuls, the size of the prize on offer at Clones yesterday proved to be overwhelming with neither team able to drag themselves over the line.

Armagh tried, when the magnificent Jarly Og Burns scored a great goal to help put them four points up early in the second half, but it never looked like a commanding lead.

Cavan calmly chipped away at it, presenting Cian Mackey with the chance to level the scores in the 69th minute and take it to extra time. Without an Ulster final appearance since 2001, the 32-year-old knew this was a chance they couldn't waste and he again forced his will on proceedings at the end of extra time, cancelling out Stefan Campbell's earlier point in a tense, low-scoring extra time.

"Look it, I played with Cian Mackey back in 2003/2004 so I know what he is capable of," said a relieved Cavan boss Mickey Graham.

"He is a great man in that pressure situation and he was the right man in the right place, with the composure to grab the thing by the scruff of the neck.

"We had 14 players (after Ciaran Brady's 63rd minute sending-off) and were four points down at one stage, so there were questions about their character and I think they answered them."

Aidan Forker of Armagh in action against Ciaran Brady of Cavan. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Aidan Forker of Armagh in action against Ciaran Brady of Cavan. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The teams will go back at it in a replay next Sunday. Most of normal time was a high quality game but the standard dipped significantly in extra time, with fatigue and difficult playing conditions only partly responsible.

"It was very tense in the last few minutes of normal time and extra time with two teams trying to seize the opportunity in front of them," admitted Graham.

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"But this is what the Ulster championship is all about. It's a serious province for games like this."

For most of the noughties, Armagh owned Clones but their Ulster championship appearances at St Tiernach's Park are rare these days and they haven't reached an Ulster decider since 2008.

Conor Madden of Cavan in action against Aidan Nugent of Armagh. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Conor Madden of Cavan in action against Aidan Nugent of Armagh. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

That seemed to weigh heavy on them in the second half because they never really had this one in the bag, and they invited Cavan onto them in extra time playing keep-ball trying to protect a one-point lead.

"It was a rollercoaster of emotions for both teams," admitted Armagh assistant boss McCorry.

"It was nip and tuck the whole way.

"We both learned a lot from watching the first round games and we'll learn a bit more today, so we'll get ready to go at it again next week."

Despite playing conditions being difficult and the quality of the game dipping the longer it went on, the game was as entertaining as they come.

The sides were level 12 times. It was 0-7 apiece after a high quality first half and Burns' superb goal in the 42nd minute looked like being a huge score in a tight game.

Aidan Forker, who had a great battle all day with Martin Reilly, launched a long ball in to Jamie Clarke who caught it with his back to goal and laid it off to Burns charging through the middle.

Burns didn't break his stride and stroked the ball low into the corner of the net for what looked like it could be a match-winning goal.

But Cavan calmly chipped away at the deficit. O'Neill stroked over a long-range free to put Armagh 1-10 to 0-9 up after 44 minutes but Breffni sub Stephen Murray kicked two vital scores in the final quarter.

By the time Ciaran Brady was dismissed after 63 minutes, Cavan had clawed back two of the points before McKiernan and Mackey stepped up.

Dara McVeety and Gearoid McKiernan kicked long-range points before Mackey's point from the wing after 69 minutes resulted in extra time, finishing level at 1-13 to 0-16.

Even allowing for fatigue and the greasy, difficult conditions, extra time was not of the same quality and there were no scores at all until the second period of extra time.

Stefan Campbell, reintroduced as a sub, fisted the ball over the bar after 83 minutes.

Armagh tried to play keep ball - and paid the price with Mackey capitalising on a spilled ball four minutes from the end.

He had another chance at the death to snatch it, but dropped it short.

Scorers - Armagh: J Og Burns 1-2, R O'Neill 0-4 (3f), A Nugent 0-2, P Hughes, A Forker, J Hall, S Campbell, J McElroy 0-1 each, J Clarke 0-1 (f); Cavan: N Murray 0-5 (4f), G McKiernan 0-3 (2f), D McVeety, S Murray, C Mackey 0-2 each, C Moynagh, C Conroy, G Smith 0-1 each.

Armagh: B Hughes 6; J Morgan 6, M Shields 7, P Hughes 6; R Kennedy 6, B Donaghy 6, A Forker 8; J Og Burns 9, N Grimley 6; A Nugent 7, R Grugan 7, J Hall 7; J Clarke 7, R O'Neill 8, S Campbell 6. Subs: J McElroy 7 for Morgan (23), E Rafferty 6 for Campbell (60), A Murnin 6 for Grugan (65), N Rowland NR for Forker (70), C Vernon NR for Burns (70), B Crealey NR for Nugent (70), S Campbell NR for Rafferty (80).

Cavan: R Galligan 7; J McLoughlin 8, P Faulkner 6, C Moynagh 7; G Smith 7, K Clarke 7, C Rehill 7; Conor Brady 6, G McKiernan 8; M Reilly 6, D McVeety 8, N Murray 8; O Kiernan 6, T Galligan 6, C Madden 6 Subs: Ciaran Brady 6 for Faulkner (BC, 27), C Conroy 7 for Smith (29), C Mackey 8 for Madden (47), S Murray 8 for Conor Brady (53), J Brady NR for Murray (80).

Ref: D O'Mahony (Tipperary).

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