Ulster SFC: brilliant Breffni put Armagh to the sword

June 09, 2019

Cavan's Oisin Pierson with Paul Hughes of Armagh. ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson.

Cavan are through to this year’s Ulster final after beating Armagh by 0-23 to 0-17 in this replayed semi-final at Clones.

Victory means the Breffni Blues, who reeled off six of the last seven points, will lock horns with Donegal in a fortnight – their first provincial decider in 18 years - to see who captures the Anglo-Celt Cup, while the Orchard County are into the pot for the second-round Qualifier draw tomorrow morning.

Cavan led by 0-11 to 0-8 at the break, having roared into a commanding 0-9 to 0-2 lead inside 24 minutes only for Kieran McGeeney’s charges to whip over the last four scores before the short whistle. Cavan had seven different scorers in the opening period while Rian O’Neill and Jamie Clarke fired all of Armagh’s first-half points between them.

The sides were somehow level after five minutes, Dara McVeety (free) replying to an O’Neill effort after the Orchard County wasted two great goal-scoring chances, Clarke surprisingly sending his shot wide of the posts when a three-pointer seemed inevitable.

Niall Murray edged the Breffni County ahead and then slotted a free as Mickey Graham’s men led by three points to one after seven minutes. The gap was out to five by the 20th minute – 0-7 to 0-2 – Raymond Galligan executing his third save of the game to deny corner back Mark Shields after Killian Clarke arrowed over Cavan’s seventh.

Conor Moynagh pointed off the outside of the boot and Gearoid McKiernan landed the winners’ fifth straight point to make it 0-5 to 0-1, Murray and O’Neill trading frees before Killian Clarke got his score. Oisin Pierson made it 0-8 to 0-2 as Armagh continued to miss chances to beat the band while Cavan were much more economical in front of the posts.

With 21,192 looking on, Galligan speared over a Cavan free and O’Neill replied on 24 minutes with Armagh’s first point from play. McKiernan and Clarke swapped points before Murray and O’Neill exchanged frees, keeping the gap at six. Cavan had bossed the first half but three unanswered Clarke points – two from play and a free – halved that deficit before the interval.

The winners were unlucky when Murray’s goal effort struck the woodwork at the start of the second half but points from Galligan (free) and Oisin Kiernan nudged their lead back out to five. However, Armagh got back on track and had it back to a one-point game by the 47th minute thanks to scores from O’Neill (2), Clarke and Stefan Campbell.

Murray swung over a free 14 minutes into the second half to make it 0-14 to 0-12 and Clarke replied before Galligan, McVeety and Martin Reilly notched three in a row for Cavan.

Four behind with 13 minutes remaining, the Orchard County rallied again with exquisite points from Rory Grugan, supersub Campbell and Clarke, which meant it was a one-point game with an hour played, 0-17 to 0-16.

Right on cue, McVeety nailed a truly terrific Cavan point on 63 minutes and Moynagh followed up 90 seconds later with another trademark outside-of-the-boot finish.

The hero of last weekend’s drawn encounter, substitute Cian Mackey lofted over the 20th Cavan point four minutes from the end of time at the end of a brilliant solo run. Armagh carved out a late goal chance but it fell to Shields again and the corner back blazed the ball over the bar in a one-on-one with Galligan. At the other end, Killian Clarke did well to place the outstanding McVeety for his fourth point.

Gearoid McKiernan and Conor Rehill provided the icing on the cake as the Breffni County advanced to their first provincial final since 2001.

Cavan - R Galligan (0-3f); P Faulkner, K Clarke (0-1), J McLoughlin; N Murray (0-5, 4f), C Rehill (0-1), M Reilly (0-1); T Galligan, C Brady; O Kiernan (0-1), C Moynagh (0-2), D McVeety (0-4); O Pierson (0-1), G McKiernan (0-3), C Madden. Subs: C Mackey (0-1) for C Madden, S Murray for T Galligan, C O’Reilly for O Pierson, J Brady for O Kiernan.

Armagh - B Hughes; R Kennedy, C Vernon, P Hughes; M Shields (0-1), P Burns, J Morgan; J Og Burns, N Grimley; A Forker, A Nugent, J Hall; A Murnin, R O’Neill (0-6, 4f), J Clarke (0-7, 3f). Subs: S Campbell (0-2) for A Nugent, A McKay for C Vernon, R Grugan (0-1) for A Murnin, B Crealey for J Hall, J McElroy for J Morgan, E Rafferty for J Og Burns.

Referee - P Neilan.

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