Three red cards flashed after the final whistle after Cavan beat 14-man Down
Cavan 1-14 Down 0-15
Referee Cormac Reilly flashed three red cards after the final whistle as a tempestuous Ulster derby ended in a mass brawl at Brewster Park.
Cavan battled through to a place in next week’s third round of All-Ireland SFC qualifiers, but at a serious cost with Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh dismissed along with Down’s Anthony Doherty for their part in the angry exchanges which erupted on the pitch after the conclusion of five minutes of stoppage time.
Players and backroom officials from both teams got involved in a heated melee which lasted for around a minute before order was restored.
Cavan were below par while Down produced their best performance of the year to make a real contest of it. They struggled, however, after going down to 14 men when Ryan Johnston was given a straight red for an off the ball incident with Martin Reilly with 21 minutes to go.
Cavan started brightly but were outplayed by Down for long spells before a goalkeeping blunder by Shane Harrison earned them a reprieve.
Harrison dropped Gearoid McKiernan’s shot and the ball trickled into the net in the 53rd minute.
Deep in injury-time Down went chasing a winning goal and Darren O’Hagan cut in from the left and drilled a low shot towards the near post but Cavan’s James Farrelly batted it away for a match-winning save.
Despite both sides losing heavily to Donegal in the Ulster SFC, Cavan were warm favourites for this second round All-Ireland qualifier and they lived up to that billing in the opening quarter racing into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead.
Dominant on kickouts and first to a lot of the breaks, they looked comfortable with Seanie Johnston picking off three frees and Ciaran Brady, Dara McVeety and Gearoid McKiernan all scoring from play.
McKiernan won a Down kickout in the air, raced forward and popped it over the bar with his left foot to suggest Cavan were in the ascendancy, leading by four points after 13 minutes.
Down refused to lie down, however, and were easily the better side for the remainder of the half.
Out of nowhere they found resolve and dug in, scoring eight of the next 10 points up to the interval.
Along with Anthony Doherty and Ronan Millar frees, Connaire Harrison and Kevin McKernan scored spectacular long-range points to drag Down level at seven points apiece after 26 minutes.
The Mourne county’s momentum was halted briefly around the half-hour mark with two black cards. Harrison went after a tussle with Padraig Faulkner and when McKernan argued about it with the linesman, referee Cormac Reilly came over and dismissed him to the stands.
Down didn’t let it unsettle them and took the lead for the first time through Peter Turley’s boomer from distance. Niall Madine and Sean Dornan gave them a 0-10 to 0-8 useful half-time lead.
Down stayed in front in the third quarter and led by four, at 0-13 to 0-9, after 47 minutes but they lost their way after Johnston’s red card.
Cavan controlled possession in the fourth quarter and Niall Murray points along with McKiernan’s goal saw them book a place in the third round draw.
Scorers - Cavan: G McKiernan 1-2, S Johnston 0-3 (3f), N Murray 0-2, C Brady 0-2, D McVeety 0-1, S McCormack 0-1, C Bradley 0-1, O Kiernan 0-1, P Faulkner 0-1; Down: A Doherty 0-3 (2f, one ‘45’), R Millar 0-4 (3f), S Dornan 0-2, N Madine 0-1, C Maginn 0-1, P Turley 0-1, C Harrison 0-1, K McKernan 0-1, D McKibbin 0-1
Cavan: J Farrelly; K Brady, P Faulkner, E Flanagan; C Brady, C Moynagh, M Reilly; S McCormack, B Magee; O Kiernan, G McKiernan, N Murray; C Bradley, D McVeety, S Johnston. Subs: F Reilly for K Brady (HT), C Mackey for Magee (41), C O’Reilly for Johnston (41), A Cole for McCormack (52), N Clerkin for Bradley (60), J McLoughlin for Flanagan (70)
Down: S Harrison; R McAleenan, B McArdle, A Doherty; D O’Hagan, N McParland, C Mooney; P Turley, N Donnelly; R Millar, K McKernan, C Maginn; S Dornan, C Harrison, R Johnston. Subs: N Madine for Harrison (29, BC), D McKibbin for McKernan (31, BC), J Flynn for Mooney (38), C Poland for Donnelly (51), C Francis for Turley (66)
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)