Cavan 'rain' supreme over Armagh to make semis

McKenna Cup round 2

Cavan 1-14

Armagh 1-9

Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni

Cavan advanced to the semi-final of the McKenna Cup for the first time since 2016 with this five-point win in dreadful conditions at Kingspan Breffni.

In incessant, driving rain, the sides served up an entertaining tussle, particularly in the first half which produced 1-15 and just two wides, both for the visitors.

Cavan were much the better side in the second half, however – Armagh made 11 changes at half-time and lost all momentum as Cavan kicked on with an impressive performance.

At half-time, the sides were all square. Cavan had opened a 1-3 to 0-1 lead after 12 minutes but Armagh were the better side from there to the short whistle, hitting the front just before the interval only for Oisin Brady to send the sides in level.

Cavan held possession for over two minutes before the outstanding Dara McVeety opened the scoring. Aidan Nugent levelled matters, blazing over from close range, but Cavan put some daylight between them when Martin Reilly hooked over a trademark left-footed score and Ryan O’Neill intercepted the resulting kick-out and blasted to the net.

Goalkeeper Raymond Galligan marked his 100th appearance with a sweetly-struck free from the right wing but three in a row for the Orchard from Conor O’Neill, Aidan Nugent – after a terrific pass from sweeper-keeper Ethan Rafferty – and Grugan (free).

A 46-metre free from Galligan was cancelled out by a lovely effort from Stefan Campbell. Cavan’s best player on the evening, Dara McVeety, sent over a mark but Grugan (free) and Jarlath Óg Burns nudged Kieran McGeeney’s side in front before Brady’s free levelled it at the midway point.

McGeeney made a whopping 11 changes at half-time and it was Cavan who kicked on in the third quarter. McVeety, who returned to the squad after three seasons out, opened the scoring again and two Brady frees, either side of a Cian Madden effort, opened a four-point gap.

Impressive rookie Tiarnan Madden, another and when he found Brían O’Rourke, his fellow graduate from last year’s Breffni U20 side, for another, Cavan were 1-12 to 0-9 ahead and firmly in control entering the home stretch.

O’Rourke added an attacking mark and fellow newcomer Brandon Boylan fisted over a point as both sides continued to run their respective benches. Armagh’s only score of the second half arrived five minutes from time but it was worth waiting for as sub Oisin Conaty rifled a powerful shot to the roof of the hosts’ net.

Official Man of the Match on the night was McVeety, whose return is a major boost to manager Mickey Graham, who will be without the Crosserlough man’s cousin, All-Star Thomas Galligan, who is going travelling.

Cavan: R Galligan (0-2f), J Cooke, C Moynagh, E Finnegan, Ciaran Brady, D McVeety (0-3, 1m), T Madden (0-1), K Clarke, E Maguire, G Smith, O Brady (0-3f), O Kiernan (Castlerahan), M Reilly (0-1), R O’Neill (1-0), Cian Madden (0-1)

Subs: B Boylan (0-1) for O Kiernan (40 mins), D Wilson for J Cooke, R Donohoe for E Maguire (both 49), B O’Rourke (0-2, 1m) for M Reilly (50), D Brady for R O’Neill, C Rehill for C Brady, O Kiernan (Denn) for C Moynagh (all 60), TN Hoffman for K Clarke (68)

Armagh: E Rafferty, G McCabe, A McKay, R Finn, C O’Neill (0-1), B McCambridge, J Óg Burns (0-1), S Campbell (0-1), S Sheridan, J Sheridan, C Cumiskey, T Kelly, R Grugan (0-3f), C Turbitt, A Nugent (0-2)

Subs: S Magill for E Rafferty, C Mackin for Finn, N Smyth for C O’Neill, J Hall for B McCambridge, R McQuillan for J Burns, R O’Neill for S Campbell, N McConville for C Cumiskey, C McConville for T Kelly, J Kieran for R Grugan, S McPartland for C Turbitt, C Grimley for A Nugent (all ht), L Rice for G McCabe, K Doyle for S Sheridan, O Conaty (1-0) for A McKay (all 62)

Ref: Diarmuid Boylan (Monaghan)