Martin Reilly shoots. Pic: ADRIAN DONOHOE
Martin Reilly shoots. Pic: ADRIAN DONOHOE
at Kingspan Breffni Park
Cavan tapped into a rich vein of form against Meath in the second half at Navan a week ago and continued that here with arguably the best performance of Terry Hyland's tenure.
The hosts were pointless after the opening two rounds against Tyrone and Derry but there was enough in those performances to suggest they were making progress – that has been emphatically confirmed now after another free-scoring victory in which the forward line clicked almost from the off.
Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney absolved his players of blame and said that he, personally, would have to “take it on the chin” following a 17-point humbling at the hands of an impressive Cavan at Breffni Park on Saturday evening.
While the Blues did turn in their best performance of Terry Hyland's four-year tenure, the Orchard men were dreadful, scoring the opening three points before totally collapsing in almost all sectors.
Armagh played their best stuff early with points from Ciaron O'Hanlon, Stephen Sheridan and Micheál McKenna – but Cavan soon took command.
Man of the Match Seanie Johnston, who finished with 1-5, bundled home a goal to level matters in the seventh minute and Cavan were never headed thereafter.
With Gearoid McKiernan running in direct lines through the centre with support off the shoulder, Cavan dismantled the Armagh rearguard time and again, with the high ball to David Givney also working a treat.
Eight unanswered points from Johnston, Michael Argue (two), Jason McLoughlin (two), Gearoid McKiernan and Dara McVeety helped them into a comfortable lead and they didn't take a backward step from that point on.
The Blues were ahead by 1-11 to 0-5 at half-time and stepped on the gas in the second half. By that stage, McGeeney had made a couple of changes and although Ethan Rafferty and Gavin McPartland would snipe a couple of points apiece, the lack of options in reserve was apparent.
What went wrong? 'Geezer' was in no doubt that the problem lies with him and not the players themselves.
“It was poor. I don't think we are as bad as was shown out there. Cavan are obviously moving very well at the minute, that's two games on the trot that they've put up those scores but I believe we have good footballers in there – I just mustn't be doing the right thiongs with them,” he told the press pack after the game.
“They are all good lads, good players, so I just have to go back and see what I'm doing because I think it must be something I'm doing.
“I think I have quality there but I think I have to change what I'm doing because as I said, I don't think they're that bhad. I I have to take it on the chin. It's not easy.”
Cavan picked up where they left off in the third quarter and after Givney flicked home a second goal and McKiernan galloped through to side-foot a third, there were 18 points between them and the Orchard fans were streaming out the exit gates with 10 minutes remaining.
Corner-back Padraig Faulkner also got forward for a well-taken score, with Martin Reilly floating over another in the dying seconds as Cavan won pulling up.
Armagh had no answer to the home side, whom they meet at the same venue in championship on May 29, with only Rafferty – who came on as a sub, scored twice and was black-carded – showing anything like his best form.
All has changed utterly for the Breffni men – for Armagh and Geezer, though, the next round and a chance to put things right can't come quickly enough.
“Our lads worked hard, we felt we could have got something from our first two games and they have got their reward now in the last two. But we just have to take it one game at a time now,” said Cavan manager Hyland.
McGeeney's sentiments differed.
“I'd like to consider myself a competitive person, we weren't even competitive there. We just fell asunder there... I have to say, it's me that has to look at it, not them,” he said.
Cavan: R Galligan, P Faulkner (0-1), K Clarke, J McLoughlin (0-2), C Brady, C Moynagh, K Brady, T Corr, L Buchanan, D McVeety (0-1), G McKiernan (1-5, 3f), M Reilly (0-1), D Givney (1-1), M Argue (0-2), S Johnston (1-5, 2f)
Subs: N Murray for McVeety (12 mins, BC), R Dunne for Buchanan (48mins), P O'Connor for Johnston (53 mins), J Hayes for McLoughlin (60 mins), B Sankey for Faulkner (65 mins)
Armagh: M McNiece, A Mallon, C Vernon, S Connell, M Shields, S Heffron, S Sheridan (0-1), A Findon, S Campbell (0-3f), N Grimley, A Forker, T Kernan, C Watters, C O'Hanlon (0-1), M McKenna (0-1)
Subs: E Rafferty (0-2) for Watters (25 mins), A Murnin for Grimely (h/t), J McElroy for Rafferty (BC, 45 mins), N McConville for Forker (48 mins), G McPartland (0-2)for Kernan (58 mins), J Hall for O'Hanlon (65mins)