Fighting display destroys Cavan

June 10, 2014

● Armagh 1-12 Cavan 0-9

Armagh completely turned back the clocks back on their Breffni performance 12 months previous as they put Cavan to the sword at the Athletic Grounds with a wholehearted fighting display of intensity, passion backed up by a very impressive gameplan. Whilst “the parade bust –up” will naturally grab the headlines it should in no way detract from a terrific Armagh performance as they outplayed their opponents for the majority of the match and were in no way flattered by the winning score of 1-12 to 0-9 as they missed a handful of goal opportunities as well to go with their 10 first half wides.

The air of unexpectancy as to how things might pan out as Cavan had to do without injured chief playmaker Cian Mackey who dropped to the bench was barely digested when all hell broke loose in the pre-match parade. As all players from both teams waded in it was the sight of young band members fleeing in the light of flying fists that drew the most concern. After about 6 minutes the dust settled with Sligo referee Marty Duffy leaving any action to be taken to a higher authority. But the” bust-up” boosted the Armagh cause two fold as the crowd were buzzing for action and Cavan lost Martin Dunne with a hand injury picked up in the row. Dunne had 0-9 to his credit in last year’s championship meeting between the teams.

The opening 6 minutes was like a boxing contest as both teams set about getting used to the tactical switches and their man marking jobs. Armagh management thankfully had decided to man the defences but two Eugene Keating frees in a minute put Cavan in front for the first and only time after 7 minutes. Stefan Campbell hit the post with a free but Jamie Clarke was on hand to point the rebound to open the home account.

Campbell then hit an upright with a goal chance as Armagh accumulated 6 wides before a foul on Clarke enabled Eugene McVerry to level from the free. McVerry put Armagh ahead converting a foul on Andy Mallon and by the 24th. minute Clarke had doubled the lead 4-2 from yet another placed ball. A Clarke long range point following an earlier simple missed free was all Armagh had to show for their efforts in the last 11 minutes of the half as the Orchard went in 5-2 ahead at the short whistle. Goalkeeper Philip McEvoy had made a very good save to deny Keating a goal and preserve a then 4-2 Armagh lead.

The opening score of the second half saw Mark Shields stretch Armagh’s lead to 0-06 to 0-02 but that was to be the Whitecross man’s last piece of action as he was replaced by Aaron Kernan. The heavy downpours failed to dampen the home support who were clearly delighted by what they were seeing although the continuing wide trend was a cause for concern

Cavan needed a boost but were denied it as Charlie Vernon cleared the ball off the goal line followed by a converted “45” from Ethan Rafferty to stretch the lead to 7-2. Aaron Kernan raced through the middle electing to fist a point to put 6 points between the teams.

David Givney sent the ball over the bar for Cavan’s first score from play and indeed their first score in over 30 minutes of play, the big Cavan midfielder’s second point merely cancelled out a second for Rafferty as Armagh led 9-4. Cavan got on a roll as Fergal Flanagan and Keating added to their tally to reduce the deficit to a mere green flag. It was to be Armagh who scored the game’s only goal to kill off any Cavan revival. A speculative point attempt from Clarke dropped short with Caolan Rafferty out fielding Mackey and Flanagan before slamming the leather past impressive keeper Gilsenan who, for once, was left helpless.

Points between McKiernan and Aaron Kernan were traded as the game entered the final five minutes with impressive substitute Aaron denied a goal by the alert Gilsenan who saved superbly but Aaron was quickest to the rebound to point leaving it 1-11 to 0-8.

Clarke and sub Mark McKeever exchanged points in the last moments. Ethan Rafferty received his marching orders for picking up a black to go with his yellow on the only bad note on a day when the Orchard County blossomed.

The relegation ending League campaign is all forgotten about. Last week in the preview I said Armagh had to deliver and they did, ticking all the right boxes on the way. From early on it was clear that the whole team were up for the challenge, management had been working on a system and it paid huge dividends. All 19 players used had a part to play and they all played their part. The victory was emphatic, the memories of 12 months ago erased in comprehensive fashion. Armagh have now thrown their name into the hat as not just Championship participants but realistic hopefuls that teams will not want to meet. While “one Swallow does not make a Summer” Armagh are showing the proper signs of progress. Far from the finished article, both players and management are a work in progress, no one dimensional play on display but a wholehearted team effort from start to finish and a Summer and future of promise rather than hope to look forward to. Management deserve criticism when due it but also deserve praise when they earn it. Sunday at the Athletic Grounds saw them prove their worth through their teams display and something positive to build on regardless of the next result.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, C Vernon, A Mallon; M Shields (0-1), B Donaghy, C McKeever; K Toner, A Findon; E McVerry (0-2), K Dyas, C Rafferty (1-0); S Campbell, E Rafferty (0-2), J Clarke (0-4). Subs: A Kernan (0-3) for Shields (40), K Carragher for Campbell (51), T Kernan for McVerry (57), G McCooey for Clarke (69).

CAVAN: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, R Dunne, F Flanagan (0-1); J McEnroe, A Clarke, D O’Reilly; G McKiernan (0-2), D Givney (0-2); D McVitty, N McDermott, M Reilly; E Keating (0-2), J Brady, K Brady. Subs: C Mackey (0-1) for O’Reilly (HT), T Mooney for McDermott (HT), R Maloney-Derham for K Brady (HT), M Argue for Clarke (57), J Hayes for McEnroe (BC, 62), M McKeever (0-1) for Maloney-Derham (BC, 69).

REFEREE: Marty Duffy (Sligo).