Cavan cruise to victory over Armagh
CAVAN 2-16 ARMAGH 0-14
CAVAN advanced to the Ulster semi-final with a comfortable win over relegated Armagh at Kingspan Breffni Park.
While Terry Hyland's side didn't repeat the 17-point demolition they inflicted on the Orchard County in the League they still won very comfortably.
They had simply too much class for Kieran McGeeney's side who improved significantly in the second half. Indeed, they might have made a match of it in the final quarter but their best forward Stefan Campbell missed a 56th minute penalty.
But they looked woefully disorganised in the first period and were fortunate to be only trailing by five points at the break. Ultimately, goals from Dara McVeety and a 44th minute penalty from Martin Reilly decided the issue.
Cavan now meet Tyrone in a repeat of the Division 2 League final which Mickey Harte's side won comfortably.
A significant improvement will be required if they are to knock Tyrone out of the Ulster series – but this win – their second championship success over Armagh in four seasons – represented a decent afternoon's work for Cavan who will play in Division 1 next season.
It was a poignant afternoon for the team's prodigal son, Seanie Johnston.
His last championship game was for a Kieran McGeeney managed Kildare in 2013. He came back to haunt his old boss hitting seven points – three from play.
Armagh dropped a bombshell before the game when they opted for a new goalkeeper Paul Courtney, who was making his championship debut – regular keeper Paddy Morrision was apparently troubled by a back injury.
There was a less eye-catching change on the Cavan team; the experienced Cian Mackey was preferred ahead of Liam Buchanan, though it was Gearóid McKiernan who linked with Tomas Corr at midfield.
The appointment of the country's best referee, Eddie Kinsella, was a message from the GAA that they didn't want to see a repeat of the mayhem which ensued two years ago when the teams last clashed at championship level.
Five players, Dara McVeety, Michael Argue, Seanie Johnston (Cavan) and the Armagh pair, Charlie Vernon and James Morgan were booked in the first quarter which was indicative of how the Laois official was going to handle the contest.
As expected, Armagh packed their defence but when they broke they did so at speed and looked the better side in the early exchanges. Two points from Ethan Rafferty and a free from Stefan Campbell gave them a deserved 3-1 advantage after ten minutes.
But it soon became apparent that Armagh's rookie keeper Paul Courtney was experiencing major problems in finding team mates with his kick-outs and Cavan profited with McKiernan looking a class apart, scoring two points with either foot.
Four points from Johnston – three from frees – gave Cavan a commanding 0-7 to 0-4 early in the second quarter before the roof fell in on the Armagh challenge.
The increasingly influential Cian Mackay set in motion a move which was carried forward by Martin Reilly who linked up with Dara McVeety who had the simple task of knocking the ball to the net.
McKiernan was now in a league of his own as he added his third point to put Cavan in total command on a 1-8 to 0-4 scoreline.
Armagh introduced substitutes Aaron Findon and Michael McKenna in an effort to halt the rout and it worked to some extent as they outscored Cavan 3-1 during the remainder of the half and also missed a 13 metre free.
So despite scoring two points from play in the first half Armagh trailed by just five at the break (1-9; 0-7).
There was a marked improvement in Armagh's play in the early stages of the second half with Kernan and Campbell hitting excellent points from play in the first three minutes. In between Sean Johnston pointed a free but Kieran McGeeney's side then lost full back Charlie Vernon through injury.
But after David Givney hit Cavan's first point from play in the second half disaster struck the visitors.
Ray Gallagher's accurate kick-out started a move along the right flank which culminated in Cian Mackey being upended in the Armagh square and Martin Reilly calmly slotted the penalty to give the home side an eight-point advantage.
And to add to Armagh's woes they lost the influential Ethan Rafferty with an injury.
But in their moment of crisis, Armagh responded magnificently; Courtney's kick outs improved; McKiernan's influence declined; the Cavan defence looked vulnerable when run at and Stefan Campbell was proving too able for Killian Clarke.
By the 56th minute the margin was down to six points and Cavan had lost substitute Eugene Keating to a black card.
Armagh were handed a lifetime when Clarke was adjudged to have fouled Campbell inside the square but the full forward's weakly struck penalty was comfortably saved by Gallagher.
Worst still from an Armagh perspective, the ball was quickly recycled and Seanie Johnston kicked a point which effectively sealed the issue.
Cavan substitute Jack Brady contributed two points from play as the game wound down to its inevitable conclusion.
So for the second year in a row Armagh head straight for the qualifiers and unless they progress some distance through the back door the pressure on team boss McGeeney will increase significantly.
Meanwhile, at sun drenched Dungarvan the start of the Waterford v Tipperary quarter-final was delayed as the preceding junior game went to extra time. In the first quarter there was no sign of Tipperary repeating last year's rout – they ended up winning by 22 points.
Division 4 side Waterford held their own early on and the sides were level 0-4 each at the end of the first quarter. But gradually the visitors asserted their authority and they ran out comfortable winners on a 1-15 to 1-7 scoreline.
Tipperary now meet Cork in the provincial semi-final.
Even though the championship is still in its infancy a definite pattern is emerging with the counties who finished higher than their opponents in the League comfortably beating them when they clash in a championship. One suspects it is going to be another summer of few shocks.