Cian Mackey extra-time heroics earn Cavan a replay against Armagh

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Veteran Cian Mackey emerged as Cavan’s hero as he hit two priceless equalisers to send a thrilling Ulster SFC semi-final to a replay.

Extra-time could not separate two sides who have both waited too long for an appearance in a provincial decider, and they’ll meet again at Clones next Sunday.

Mackey kicked the late leveller that sent an absorbing tie to added time, and he repeated his heroics right at the death to keep his side in with a chance of getting to the Anglo-Celt Cup decider for the first time since 2001.

For Armagh, who last played in a provincial final in 2008, this was the second time in the current series that they had to go the extra distance. They came through an extra-time epic against Down, but this time had to settle for a second shot at glory.

A tactical first half of typical Ulster football saw both sides operate with sweepers, flooding their own territory with bodies when not in possession.

Cian Mackey extra-time heroics earn Cavan a replay against Armagh

They were level on seven periods during that opening period, with a number of intriguing personal duels limiting the effectiveness of key players.

Jarlath Og Burns had a golden goal chance early on when sent clear by Mark Shields, but he drove his shot wide.

But he made amends for that miss with a couple of long-range scores, with Rian O’Neill and Aidan Nugent also on target.

Cavan didn’t score from play until defender Conor Moynagh sliced over a gem in the 17th minute, their previous points coming from Gearoid McKiernan and Niall Murray frees.

Cian Mackey extra-time heroics earn Cavan a replay against Armagh

It was point-for-point in a game of chess, with O’Neill’s third point cancelled out in stoppage time by substitute Christopher Conroy, 0-7 each at the break.

The trend continued, and it was 0-9 apiece when the Orchard made a breakthrough five minutes into the second half.

Aidan Forker, who had nullified the effectiveness of Breffni playmaker Martin Reilly, drove a searching ball forward for Jamie Clarke to send Burns in to rifle his shot to the net past Raymond Galligan.

They went four clear through Forker, before Cavan began to claw their way back, substitute Stephen Murray with two scores and his brother Niall with another free.

But it was another sub, veteran Cian Mackey, who made the real difference, steering over two inspirational scores, including a stoppage-time leveller.

At 1-13 to 0-16, it was on to extra-time, and both sides were restored to 15 players, Cavan having lost substitute Ciaran Brady and Armagh Brendan Donaghy, both to straight red cards.

Cian Mackey extra-time heroics earn Cavan a replay against Armagh

The first period of extra-time failed to produce a score, but after Stefan Campbell, back in the action after being substituted, fisted the lead point for Armagh, before that man Mackey landed his third to tie it up for the eleventh time.

Armagh: B Hughes; J Morgan, B Donaghy, M Shields; P Hughes (0-1); R Kennedy, A Forker (0-1); J Og Burns (1-2), N Grimley; A Nugent (0-2), R Grugan, J Hall (0-1); J Clarke (0-1, f), R O’Neill (0-4, 3f), S Campbell (0-1).

Subs: J McElroy (0-1) for Morgan (23), E Rafferty for Campbell (57), A Murnin for Grugan (64), N Rowland for Forker (69), B Crealey for Nugent (70+2), Morgan (71), Campbell for Rafferty (80+1), C Vernon for Burns (84)

Cavan: R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, C Moynagh (0-1); G Smith (0-1), K Clarke, C Rehill; C Brady, G McKiernan (0-2, 2f); M Reilly, D McVeety (0-2), N Murray (0-5, 2f); O Kiernan, T Galligan, C Madden.

Subs: C Brady for Faulkner (BC 26), C Conroy (0-1) for Smith (29), C Mackey (0-3) for Madden (45), S Murray (0-2) for Brady (52), O Pierson for Reilly (70+2), P Graham (71), J Brady for N Murray (80+1), B Fortune for Moynagh (BC 83), Madden for Kiernan (86)

Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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