Cavan 0-15 Monaghan 1-15
By Francis Mooney
Monaghan qualified for their sixth straight Ulster SFC semi-final with a narrow win in a gripping derby battle with Cavan and Kingspan Breffni.
Conor McManus scored the decisive goal late on as the Farney men finally shook off a stubborn opponent.
The sides had been level on nine occasions up to that point, and Cavan were desperately unlucky not to send the tie to a replay as substitute Ryan Connolly smashed a shot against an upright deep into stoppage time.
Monaghan had to be patient in their attempts to break down a fortified Breffni defence, but went level in the seventh minute when Owen Duffy cancelled out Niall McDermott’s early free.
Cavan, playing with the strong wind in their backs, were content to soak up the pressure and break with pace, and in Cian Mackey they had the man best suited to covering the ground required.
He sent his side back in front with a superb score, but Conor McManus had the sides level by the 11th minute.
Both sides had goal chances. Gerard Smith’s effort lacked power and was easily dealt with by ‘keeper Rory Beggan, who hit the target with a ’45 and a 55 metre free, into the gusting wind.
As gaps began to open up in the Cavan defence, Karl O’Connell made a surging run through the middle to send Owen Duffy through, but his shot on goal was brilliantly blocked by Cavan defender James McEnroe.
McManus was on target from frees and play to bring his tally to four, and briefly give his side the lead, but the home side finished strongly, Seanie Johnston, from a free, McEnroe and Gearoid McKiernan all hitting the target for a 0-9 to 0-7 interval lead.
Monaghan made their move once they got the wind in their backs, with Owen Duffy hitting the target twice, and Jack McCarron also sending over a point.
But Johnston hit back with a free to regain the lead for the Breffni men, but not for long.
Conor McCarthy came off the bench to score with his first touch, and a superb Colin Walshe score brought the sides level for the eighth time.
McCarron slipped in behind to unleash a ferocious shot which Raymond Galligan brilliantly pushed around the post for a ’45 which Beggan converted.
And in the 59th minute, Monaghan struck for the decisive score. McManus ran on to Owen Duffy’s pass to dart past Conor Moynagh and fire a low shot past ‘keeper Galligan.
Ryan McAnespie and McCarthy were supremely effective as impact subs, and they had scores from McCarty and Duffy to go four clear.
But Johnston’s free gave Cavan a chance, and they almost took it, with substitute Connolly smashing a shot off an upright in stoppage time.
Cavan: R Galligan; P Faulkner, K Clarke, N Murray; J McEnroe (0-1), C Moynagh (0-1), G Smith; L Buchanan (0-1), G McKiernan (0-1); C Mackey (0-3), C Madden, M Reilly (0-1,f); N Clerkin, N McDermott (0-3, 3f), S Johnston (0-4, 4f).
Subs: C Brady for Madden (25), D McVeety for Buchanan (h-t), R Connolly for McDermott (53), J Dillon for Clerkin (63), J McLoughlin for McEnroe (64), C O’Reilly for Murray (73)
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, 2 ’45, 1f); F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe (0-1), V Corey, N McAdam; K Hughes, K O’Connell; G Doogan, K Duffy, O Duffy (0-4); D Malone, J McCarron (0-1), C McManus (1-4, 0-2f).
Subs: R McAnespie for Doogan (h-t), C McCarthy (0-2) for Malone (47), D Ward for K Duffy (55), D Mone for D Wylie (67), D Hughes for McCarron (68), S Carey for O Duffy (73, BC)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).