Ulster SFC: brilliant Breffni banish disappointing Farney County

May 18, 2019

Cavan's Gearoid McKiernan with Paudie McKenna of Monaghan. ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson.

Confident Cavan delivered a superb performance at Breffni Park tonight, where they claimed a deserved 1-13 to 0-12 derby win over Monaghan.

Victory earns the well-drilled Breffni boys a semi-final tilt at either Armagh or Down, while last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists are heading for the Qualifiers once more – having been sent packing by Fermanagh last year and Down in 2017.

The winners, who made all the running, utterly dominated the first half to establish a commanding seven-point interval advantage, 1-8 to 0-4. In truth, the only thing that disrupted Cavan’s momentum during the opening period was a stray dog that stormed onto the pitch, causing a temporary delay in the onslaught.

The losers improved upon the resumption and twice edged back within three but they were unable to pull it out of the fire.

With highly-motivated and lively opposition players swarming all around them, Malachy O’Rourke’s men failed to raise a flag from play prior to the short whistle. Cavan’s transition from defence to attack was seamless and precise; in contrast, Monaghan’s was slow, laborious and ineffective.

Paudie McKenna came into the Monaghan starting XV in place of Kieran Duffy, with the Breffni County starting as per match programme. Conor Brady got forward from midfield to give the hosts an ideal start, nonchalantly pointing with his left foot inside 19 seconds and the gap was six after just seven minutes…

Niall Murray and Conor Madden slotted points either side of a sixth-minute penalty, clinically dispatched by outstanding playmaker Martin Reilly to the bottom left corner of the net after a foul on Madden – 1-3 to no score.

Frees from All Stars Rory Beggan and Conor McManus in the tenth and eleventh minutes finally got the shell-shocked visitors up and running, but Gearoid McKiernan’s superb strike had the gap back at five points with 15 minutes played, 1-4 to 0-2.

The Farney County came more into the game but were guilty of a series of costly misses before Murray showed them how with a tidy fifth Cavan point twelve minutes from the break. McManus swung over his second free but the majestic McKiernan immediately replied in kind before Conor Rehill raided forward to claim a classy score and leave seven between the teams.

With 13,496 looking on, McManus pulled back another free in first-half added time but Madden replied with a great point following a pinpoint, defence-splitting Reilly pass off the outside of that wand of a left foot.

A lovely McKiernan free increased Cavan’s lead to eight at the start of the second half but Monaghan replied with quickfire points from McManus, Shane Carey and Beggan (‘45’). McVeety fisted Cavan’s tenth point but substitute Conor McCarthy replied with a nice finish on the run. Again, the visitors missed a number of presentable opportunities, before Carey’s second had them back within four going into the fourth quarter.

Ryan Wylie clipped over the next Monaghan point but full back Faulkner got on the end of a great move to knock over a timely and much-needed Cavan score – 1-11 to 0-10. With Moynagh black-carded, visiting No.3 Conor Boyle cancelled out Faulkner’s high-quality effort with an equally-impressive strike from a narrow angle; at the other end, McKiernan steadied himself to spear over the insurance point with just six minutes left.

Christopher Conroy and Kieran Hughes exchanged injury-time frees as Mickey Graham’s charges recorded a memorable victory – a first in the championship over their neighbours in 18 years.

Cavan - R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner (0-1), C Moynagh; G Smith, K Clarke, C Rehill (0-1); Conor Brady (0-1), G McKiernan (0-4, 2f); M Reilly (1-0pen), D McVeety (0-1), N Murray (0-2); O Kiernan, T Galligan, C Madden (0-2). Subs: Ciaran Brady for O Kiernan, C Conroy (0-1f) for G Smith, C Mackey for C Madden, J Brady for C Moynagh (BC), S Smith for T Galligan, K Brady for J McLoughlin.

Monaghan - R Beggan (0-2, 1'45, 1f); D Wylie, C Boyle (0-1), R Wylie (0-1); K O’Connell, C Walshe, P McKenna; F Kelly, K Hughes (0-1f); D Ward, D Malone, S Carey (0-2); R McAnespie, C McManus (0-4, 3f), S O’Hanlon. Subs: C McCarthy (0-1) for P McKenna, K Duffy for D Malone, M Bannigan for S O’Hanlon, O Duffy for D Ward, N Kearns for S Carey, D Mone for K O’Connell (BC).

Referee - C Lane.

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