'We said if this is going to be the last game, let’s go down fighting'
Cavan manager Mickey Graham cut a relieved figure at the final whistle in Armagh after seeing his side produce a second-half performance which was as brilliant as the first half was dismal.
“People were probably sitting at home and turned to another channel to watch the Connacht final at half-time. The way we were performing was just not good enough,” admitted the Breffni boss.
“I thought we looked tired, we had no energy about us, no work-rate, made lots of simple errors. It was a bit of a calamity, that first half, to be honest.”
“You can only warn players and tell them what to expect but they have to be tuned in and ready for it. Maybe some of them weren’t just up to the pitch of it early on.
“We seemed to let them get runners all over the field and to be in trouble in lots of areas. We made it very easy for Down but thankfully half-time came and we were able to regroup.”
At half-time, Cavan made some changes, including bringing Padraig Faulkner to midfield and introducing the sensational Conor Madden, and they paid off.
“We were in a bad situation,” said Graham, “and we said if this is going to be the last 35 minutes of the year, let’s go down fighting. There was no point getting back to within three or four points and being happy with a moral victory. We were brave, we pushed up and Padraig [Faulkner] going to the middle of the field gave us a platform and Conor [Madden] coming in gave us an extra outlet and caused panic for them.”
Meanwhile, Down manager Paddy Tally was understandably dejected.
“It’s devastating,” said Tally. “From such a really strong position at the end of the first half to losing the game by a point is very, very tough.
“We created at least one or two goal chances in the second half, one of those would have swung the momentum back in our favour again. But we couldn’t take our point chances, every time we missed one they seemed to go down the other end of the field and score one.
“We couldn’t get a foothold again in the second half. But you have to give it to Cavan, they dominated the midfield on the kick-outs. We couldn’t get enough possession.
“It [the penalty] was a very controversial call, it was made by the umpire. I’ve never actually seen that before. Linesmen don’t make calls, umpires don’t make calls. That’s not within the rules.”