Suspensions are inevitable after both sets of players became embroiled in a shocking flare-up prior to the throw-in.
The trouble started when the Armagh team took up their positions behind the Cavan flag being carried by the St Michael’s Scout Band for the traditional pre-match parade. When the Cavan players trotted over to take their place behind the band and saw the Armagh team taking the outside line behind their flag tempers flared, with players from both sides swinging punches and wrestling one another to the ground.
It took match officials two minutes to get across to the far side of the pitch to separate those involved and break up the scuffle.
Dunne had to be replaced prior to throw-in by Jack Brady while Armagh defender Brendan Donaghy received treatment for a cut above his eye before the game started.
Referee Marty Duffy decided to take no action, however, and the parade went ahead, followed by a minute’s silence.
There was another flare-up as the teams made their way off at half-time, with Armagh assistant manager Kieran McGeeney getting involved with Cavan forward Eugene Keating, but it was the scenes before the game started which will concern the CCCC in the coming days.
An Ulster Council spokesman last night confirmed they will be making no comment until the referee’s report is received. Duffy has up to three days to submit his report, with the spokesman adding: “It will be a matter for the CCCC at national level to deal with”.
The match itself will not last nearly so long in the memory as the nastiness of the row beforehand.
Cavan were poor, although the loss of Dunne, who had kicked eight points from play in their win over Armagh 12 months ago, was a huge blow.
Cian Mackey was also unable to start because of injury and without their best ball carrier and best finisher, perhaps it was no surprise they struggled to find holes in Armagh’s well-organised defence.
They did have a couple of goal chances, Keating and David Givney going close in each half, but both sides missed a hell of a lot more than they scored.
Armagh set up to frustrate Cavan and the plan to break at speed was working brilliantly, with half-forwards Kevin Dyas, Caolan Rafferty and Eugene McVerry superb at carrying the ball into Cavan territory.
Unfortunately, the finishing on both sides was shocking.
Armagh hit 11 first-half wides and led by just three points, 0-5 to 0-2, at half-time. They should have been out of sight in fact, but Cavan were unable to make them to pay for their wastefulness.
Only one of the seven points scored in the first half came from play and even that score, from Jamie Clarke, came after a free had rebounded off a post.
Keating converted two frees in the opening seven minutes for Cavan, but they failed to score again until the 45th minute.
Armagh completely took over, scoring eight unanswered points between the ninth and 45th minute.
It was all-out defence from both teams but there were still a few good goal chances spurned.
Stefan Campbell was brilliantly set up by McVerry and he should have found the net after 13 minutes, but he scuffed the chance.
Cavan made three half-time substitutions, Mackey being one of them, and also brought Givney back to midfield from full-forward. He made an impact temporarily in a sector of the field which was being bossed by Kieran Toner and Armagh’s deep-lying but pacey half-forward line. Givney scored two points from play with fellow midfielder Gearoid McKiernan also finding his range.
When the deficit was reduced to 0-9 to 0-6 with 20 minutes still remaining, and Cavan still in the game despite being thoroughly outplayed, there was reasonable hope that they could enjoy a dominant spell at a crucial stage.
However, Caolan Rafferty’s goal in the 52nd minute killed them off.
Jamie Clarke struggled all day but his mis-hit attempt at a point fell perfectly for Rafferty, who showed great strength to beat two Cavan defenders to the ball and stick it into the far corner.
Aaron Kernan’s introduction was also huge for Armagh. Despite being fully fit, he was left on the bench until the 40th minute and came on and kicked three points (two from play) and should also have bagged a goal.
Rafferty’s goal left Cavan six points adrift again and they looked like they had given up all hope of a comeback. They had two players, James McEnroe and Robert Maloney-Derhem, black-carded in the last ten minutes.
Armagh also had Ethan Rafferty sent off, after he picked up a yellow card followed by a black. Marty Duffy’s bookwork was spot-on and he immediately flashed a red card after the black card in the last act of the game.
But it will be the explosive start to the game which is likely to dominate his match report.
Scorers for Armagh: C Rafferty 1-0, J Clarke 0-4 (2f), A Kernan 0-3 (1f), E McVerry 0-2 (2f), E Rafferty 0-2 (one ‘45’), M Shields 0-1
Scorers for Cavan: G McKiernan 0-2 (1f), E Keating 0-2 (2f), D Givney 0-2, F Flanagan, M McKeever, C Mackey 0-1 each
Subs for Armagh: A Kernan (0-3, 1f) for Shields (40), K Carragher for Campbell (51), T Kernan for McVerry (57), G McCooey for Clarke (69)
Subs for Cavan: C Mackey (0-1) for O’Reilly (HT), T Mooney for McDermott (HT), R Maloney-Derham for K Brady (HT), M Argue for Clarke (57), J Hayes for McEnroe (BC, 62), M McKeever (0-1) for Maloney-Derham (BC, 69).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; J Morgan, C Vernon, A Mallon; M Shields (0-1), B Donaghy, C McKeever; K Toner, A Findon; E McVerry (0-2, 2f), K Dyas, C Rafferty (1-0); S Campbell, E Rafferty (0-2, one ‘45’), J Clarke (0-4, 2f) CAVAN: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, R Dunne, F Flanagan (0-1); J McEnroe, A Clarke, D O’Reilly; G McKiernan (0-2, 1f), D Givney (0-2); D McVitty, N McDermott, M Reilly; E Keating (0-2, 2f), J Brady, K Brady