Triumph for Mickey Graham as Cavan beat Monaghan by four points

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Cavan sprang a shock with a four points Ulster SFC quarter-final victory over neighbours Monaghan at Kingspan Breffni Park.

Mickey Graham’s first championship game as an inter-county manager ended in triumph as his side laid on a passionate display against a Farney side that reached the All-Ireland semi-finals last year.

Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke has suffered many setbacks in his seven seasons in charge, but his side has always bounced back in impressive fashion.

An early engagement with the Qualifiers will pose another big test, however, as they seek to iron out a number of obvious problems.

For the Breffni men, however, relegation from Division One of the NFL is but a distant, irrelevant memory as they plan for a provincial semi-final against either Down or Armagh.

In front of a crowd of 13, 496, Cavan started the contest in a whirlwind, easing in front with points from Conor Brady and Niall Murray, and in the sixth minute a penalty award saw them move five clear.

Martin Reilly’s pinpoint pass picked out Conor Madden, who was fouled as he attempted to bring the ball under control, and Reilly slotted the kick past Rory Beggan.

It was Beggan who got the Farney men off the mark from a 50 metre free in the ninth minute, but the energy displayed by the home side, along with constant inter-changing in their attacking unit, prevented the Farney men from establishing any manner of fluency.

Triumph for Mickey Graham as Cavan beat Monaghan by four points

Gearoid McKiernan thumped over an inspiring score towards the end of the opening quarter to keep Mickey Graham’s side in control, and the sight of talisman Conor McManus being comfortably dispossessed by Jason McLoughlin was a disconcerting one for Monaghan fans.

Even a break in play engineered by an elusive dog couldn’t help Monaghan find their feet, as they kicked a seventh wide, before Cavan surged forward again for Murray to hit his second of the evening.

The driving runs of Kieran Hughes gave Monaghan some attacking momentum towards the end of the half, and he won the free that McManus curled between the posts.

Relentless and tenacious, Breffni bodies were placed on the line as they threw themselves into every challenge, and with Martin Reilly leading by example, they deservedly took a 1-8 to 0-4 lead into the interval.

After falling eight behind to a McKiernan free, Monaghan, now with the wind in their backs, began the long haul back, their revival sparked by a brilliant McManus effort, followed by scores from Shane Carey and ‘keeper Beggan (’45).

But their efforts were blighted by misplaced passes and poorly timed support runs as Cavan survived a difficult spell for Dara McVeety to punch over a point.

By the onset of the final quarter, Monaghan still trailed by four, and terrific Cavan defending nullified their attack as they pressed in numbers.

Killian Clarke, Padraig Faulkner and the excellent Jason McLoughlin all stood firm at the back as the Breffni men conceded just one point in a 19-minute spell, that scored by defender Conor Boyle.

Cavan were able to pick off scores on the breakaway, McKiernan hitting his fourth, and substitute Christopher Conroy sealing a famous win from a stoppage time free.

Cavan: R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner (0-1), C Moynagh; G Smith, K Clarke, C Rehill (0-1); C Brady (0-1), G McKiernan (0-4, 2f); M Reilly, D McVeety (0-1), N Murray (0-2); O Kiernan, T Galligan, C Madden (0-2).

Subs: C Brady for Kiernan (45), C Conroy (0-1, f) for Smith, C Mackey for Madden, J Brady for Moynagh (BC, 57), S Smith for T Galligan (64), K Brady for McLoughlin (74)

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, 1f, 1 ’45); D Wylie, C Boyle (0-1), R Wylie (0-1); K O’Connell, C Walshe, P McKenna; F Kelly, K Hughes (0-1, f); D Ward, D Malone, S Carey (0-2); R McAnespie, C McManus (0-4, 3f), S O’Hanlon.

Subs: C McCarthy (0-1) for McKenna (29), K Duffy for Malone (h-t), M Bannigan for O’Hanlon (53), O Duffy for Ward (63), N Kearns for Carey (65), D Mone for O’Connell (BC, 71)

Referee: C Lane (Cork).

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