Graham delight as Cavan survive 'nervy stuff' to upset neighbours
Cavan 1-13 Monaghan 0-12
Monaghan face a marathon journey and a mammoth challenge to get back to Croke Park in August after becoming the first high-profile casualties in the 2019 provincial championships in Kingspan Breffni.
Though victors Cavan benefited hugely from a dubious fifth-minute penalty, there was no doubting the merit of their first championship win over their next door neighbours on home soil in 32 years.
"I would be the first to say that Cavan deserved it. They were the better team on the day. I'm very disappointed with our own performance," said Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke.
Though he acknowledged that he didn't see the controversial penalty awarded after Drew Wylie was adjudged to have pushed Conor Madden, he questioned the merit of the decision.
"All I can go by is what people said and they said it was a very harsh penalty. Unless a penalty is clear-cut, it shouldn't be given because it had a massive bearing on the game. It gave Cavan that wee bit of breathing space all through and even in the second half when we were coming back they had that cushion."
Plotted From the moment the draw was made last October, Cavan - who were relegated from Division 1 - had plotted for this assignment, according to their rookie manager Mickey Graham. "It was a game we were looking to since the draw was made especially since it was on our home patch.
"We targeted a good start and we said we weren't going to step back and see what Monaghan were going to bring,"
Cavan did exactly that and by the seventh minute they already had one foot in next month's Ulster semi-final when they led 1-3 to 0-0. The visitors, who were bidding to reach their eighth consecutive provincial semi-final, never recovered their composure during their remainder of the half, failing to score from play and registering seven wides.
Ultimately, the lack of depth in their squad proved their undoing. They started without first-choice midfielders Darren Hughes and Niall Kearns - the latter featured in the last ten minutes just six months after heart surgery.
Neil McAdams was also ruled out; Conor McCarthy was introduced five minutes before the break having dashed via helicopter from Dublin where he was doing a university exam, while it was Kieran Hughes' first start since last year's All-Ireland semi-final.
Cavan won nearly all the individual battles though their inability to consistently retain possession from Ray Galligan's restarts will have been noted by future opponents. "There were areas that we were a wee bit disappointed in and we will try and correct them the next day," said Graham, who featured on the last Cavan team to win a provincial title in 1997.
Martin Reilly, who provided the assist for and then scored the penalty, gave a tour-de-force first-half performance. Pádraig Faulkner restricted All-Star Conor McManus to one point from play and the got forward to score a crucial 55th-minute point. Top scorer Gearóid McKiernan and corner-back Jason McLoughlin also made huge contributions, though the side suffered a familiar second-half fade-out.
Leading 1-9 to 0-4 in the 36th minute, they were outscored 0-8 to 0-3 for the remainder of the contest but despite this wobble never looked like losing as Monaghan failed to create a single goal chance and never reduced the deficit below three points.
The Cavan players were still mingling with their families and fans half an hour after the final whistle as they celebrated their first championship win over Monaghan since 2001. Graham did his best to dampen the sense of euphoria.
"It was nervy stuff towards the end and we just seen it out. It is one hurdle and now we move on to the next game."
And if they are to progress further they will need a better second-half return from play than the 0-3 they managed on Saturday.
SCORERS - Cavan: G McKiernan 0-4 (2f); M Reilly 1-0 (pen); C Madden, N Murray 0-2 each; C Rehill, C Brady, P Faulkner, D McVeety, C Conroy ((f) 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-4 (3f); R Beggan (1f, 1 '45), S Carey 0-2 each; C Boyle, R Wylie, C McCarthy, K Hughes (f) 0-1 each.
Cavan - R Galligan 7; J McLoughlin 8, P Faulkner 8, C Moynagh 7; G Smith 6, K Clarke 7, C Rehill 7; C Brady 7, T Galligan 7; O Kiernan 6, D McVeety 7, N Murray 7; M Reilly 9, G McKiernan 8, C Madden 8. Subs: C Brady 6 for Kiernan (45), C Conroy 7 for Smith (47); C Mackey 6 for Madden (55), J Brady 6 for Moynagh (BC 59), S Smith for Galligan (64); C Brady for McLoughlin (70+2).
Monaghan - R Beggan; 6 D Wylie 6, C Boyle 6, R Wylie 7; K O'Connell 6, C Walsh 6, P McKenna 5; F Kelly 6, K Hughes 7; D Ward 5, D Malone 5, S Carey 7; R McAnespie 6, S O'Hanlon 6, C McManus 6. Subs: C McCarthy 6 for McKenna (31); K Duffy 6 for Malone (h-t); M Brannigan 6 for O'Hanlon (48); O Duffy 6 for Ward (63); N Kearns for Carey (65), D Mone for O'Connell (BC 70+1).
REF - C Lane (Cork)