Ulster U21 Championship Quarter-Final
Breffni Park, Cavan; March 20th, 2013
Referee – E McHugh.
It was a game between two fierce rivals played in perfect footballing conditions. Prior to throw-in, it was too close to call. Cavan were winners of the last two Ulster championships and runners-up to Donegal in 2010. In that same period Monaghan had largely underachieved, two disappointing first round defeats sandwiched between a semi-final loss to Tyrone in 2011. For whatever reason, each team left key men on the bench. Monaghan’s first fifteen was without the highly-rated Jack McCarron and Cavan started without Kingscourt Stars man Joe Dillon. Both men would come on to have a real impact on a cracking game of championship football.
At various stages both teams looked set to pull away from the other. Midway through the first half Monaghan were three points to the good, 0-5 to 0-02 up. Shane Carey had kicked three for the Farney men, while Enda O’Reilly’s proficiency with his left boot kept Cavan in touch. Visiting captain Keith McEneaney and Daniel McKenna briefly interrupted the shootout between the free-takers with two well taken scores. Cavan exploded into life immediately after Monaghan’s fifth. Straight from the kickout the ball was launched into full-forward Paul O’Connor who turned in space to score. Enda O’Reilly levelled the game up with a fourteen yard free and then his first from play. Cavan bossed the next ten minutes, and the platform was laid by wing-forward Turloch Mooney. He played a major part in Jack Brady’s first score, winning a kickout and driving at the Monaghan defence, before the ball was eventually worked to Brady who pointed with his left. The Monaghan management team wasted no time in addressing their side’s lull. Two changes were made, Jack McCarron and Brian McQuaid were introduced but Cavan pushed on. Their goalkeeper Conor Gilsenan kicked a brilliant free; 45 yards out and under the stand, before corner-back Ciaran Brady finished off a great move with his right. Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Monaghan goalie Rory Beggan kicked a 50 yard free in first-half injury time to reduce the gap to two, 0-08 to 0-06.
Somebody forgot to inform the Cavan men that the half-time whistle was supposed to bring a halt to their momentum. Reminiscent of the style that worked so well for them at this level last year, a high ball was played into the full-forward line. Paul O’Connor eventually wrestled the ball from Conor Boyle and applied a cool finish to the net, sending Beggan the wrong way. The Breffni men remained on top for the next five minutes and really should have extended their lead further. Midfielder Brian Sankey blasted an effort just wide of the top corner and Enda O’Reilly struck a post from an acute angle. The Monaghan revival began as centre-back Johnny McGuigan started to influence the game more. A Thomas Connolly point was quickly followed by a Jack McCarron free. In the next move McCarron got the equalising goal, with the simplicity of direct football displaying itself once more. A high, hopeful ball was kicked into the Monaghan full-forward line, the Currin man anticipated McEneaney’s flick on, took the ball in his stride and finished expertly with his left. Level at 1-08 apiece with 43 minutes on the clock, we wouldn’t see another score until the 55th.
Shane Carey kicked his fourth of the day before being dismissed in the next phase of play for a second yellow card. A man up Cavan went straight up the field and O’Reilly won a free in front of the post that Jack Brady dispatched. The noise levels were raised another notch or two in injury time as Cavan kicked three wides before the game was brought to extra time.
Monaghan, restored to their full fifteen took the lead in the first minute with a Thomas Kerr point. They wouldn’t score again until McCarron’s consolation free in the dying moments. Perhaps it was experience that stood to Cavan, but they went on to completely stifle the Monaghan attack and kick seven points of their own, five from play that arrived from three substitutes. Andy Graham replied to Kerr’s point to level the game for the fifth and final time. Joe Dillon, who was introduced in the second half kicked two impressive scores, one in either half with either foot. Conor Madden, who earlier had missed two opportunities in injury time kicked two himself. DCU students Brady and O’Reilly secured the win with two long range free’s in the final minutes of the game.
It’s a tough loss for Monaghan, hopes would have been high for this talented group of players and the game was definitely there for the taking after the equalising goal. A failure to score for the next eleven minutes was crucial. For Cavan, it’s their ninth win out of ten Ulster games at this level, a fantastic achievement in arguably the most competitive province of Gaelic Football. They’ll continue quietly about their business, an Ulster semi-final against Down on April 3rd beckons.
Man of the match: Cavan No.12 Turloch Mooney. Won three kickouts, set the bar physically throughout and drove his side on when they needed a boost in the first half.
Cavan – C Gilsenan (0-1); J McLoughlin, K Clarke, C Brady (0-1); D McVitty, D Sexton, F Flanagan; B Sankey, M Argue; G Smith, C Conroy, T Mooney; E O’Reilly (0-5, 4f), P O’Connor (1-1), J Brady (0-3, 2f). Subs: C Madden (0-2) for Conroy, A Watson for C Brady, J Dillon (0-2) for Mooney, A Graham (0-1) for O’Connor, C Moynagh for Sexton, T Mooney for Sankey, P Flynn for McLoughlin.
Monaghan – R Beggan (0-1f); R Wylie, C Boyle, P McGuigan; C Cromwell, J McGuigan, P McKenna; S Sherry, P Dooney; T Connolly (0-1), S Carey (0-4f), S O’Brien; T Kerr (0-1), K McEnaney (0-1), D McKenna (0-1). Subs: B McQuaid for Cromwell, J McCarron (1-2, 0-2f) for O’Brien, L Hahessy, C McKenna (0-1) for D McKenna.
Ulster Championship Semi-Finals:
Cavan vs. Down
Donegal vs. Derry