The pair are set to miss this weekend’s third round All-Ireland SFC qualifier for their part in the ugly scenes involving players and backroom officials. When the dust settled, referee Cormac Reilly dismissed the Cavan pair and Down’s Anthony Doherty.
“I’m very disappointed because when the final whistle goes, the game is over as far as I’m concerned,” said Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan.
“I don’t know what happened but I am very disappointed that the referee has seen fit to give red cards to two of our best players.”
“We will look at the video and see where it takes us.”
Cavan will be relieved to be in the hat for this morning’s draw because they were second best for long spells on Saturday night.
Fourteen-man Down bounced back from a hammering by Donegal in the Ulster semi-final to produce their best performance of the year.
They battled well despite losing two of their best players, Connaire Harrison and Kevin McKernan, to black cards in the first half while Caolan Mooney limped off injured and Ryan Johnston got a straight red midway through the second half.
That was on top of a season-ending knee injury for Donal O’Hare in a recent club game.
Despite all that, it still took a superb save from James Farrelly in the fifth minute of stoppage time to deny them.
“There was a lot of questions asked of them and they answered all those questions,” said Mourne boss Eamonn Burns who wouldn’t be drawn on his future at the end of a third year in charge.
“We had two men black-carded and a man sent off but we battled to the end.”
Down had every right to feel like the best team lost. Cavan started brightly and led 0-6 to 0-2 after 13 minutes: McVeety, Ciaran Brady, McKiernan scored from play early with Seanie Johnston nailing the frees to open up a four-point lead.
But Down scored eight of the 10 remaining points scored up to the interval to lead 0-10 to 0-8. McKernan and Harrison were on target from play with Ronan Millar and Anthony Doherty frees drawing them level (seven points apiece) after 26 minutes. They went in front late in the half with Niall Madine and Peter Turley on target and they picked up where they left off in the second half as the dominant side.
Sean Dornan scored his second to put them 0-13 to 0-9 up before Johnston’s red and a lucky goal from Gearoid McKiernan swung the momentum Cavan’s way.
Ryan Johnston’s red card in the 49th minute was a huge blow as the Mourne men were leading by four points – 0-13 to 0-9 – when he was went for an off-the-ball incident with Martin Reilly.
Four minutes later. McKiernan’s attempt at a point dropped short and Down ‘keeper Shane Harrison spilled the ball into the back of the net.
That got Cavan back into it and they picked up the pace with two Niall Murray points and Padraig Faulkner fisted over at a crucial stage.
Down had one last chance when Darren O’Hagan cut inside from the left and drilled the ball low inside Farrelly’s near post but the ‘keeper got down well to bat it away. “In the cold light of day we have to play better,” admitted McGleenan.
“We made lots of mistakes and although we didn’t play well, if you want heart and determination from Cavan men, you got it in abundance.”
“The key is to be in the hat. Who knows what it will throw up.”
G McKiernan 1-2, S Johnston 0-3 (3f), N Murray 0-2, C Brady 0-2, D McVeety 0-1, S McCormack 0-1, C Bradley 0-1, O Kiernan 0-1, P Faulkner 0-1.
A Doherty 0-3 (2f, one ‘45’), R Millar 0-4 (3f), S Dornan 0-2, N Madine 0-1, C Maginn 0-1, P Turley 0-1, C Harrison 0-1, K McKernan 0-1, D McKibbin 0-1.
J Farrelly; K Brady, P Faulkner, E Flanagan; C Brady, C Moynagh, M Reilly; S McCormack, B Magee; O Kiernan, G McKiernan, N Murray; C Bradley, D McVeety, S Johnston.
F Reilly for K Brady (HT), C Mackey for Magee (41), C O’Reilly for Johnston (41), A Cole for McCormack (52), N Clerkin for Bradley (60), J McLoughlin for Flanagan (70).
S Harrison; R McAleenan, B McArdle, A Doherty; D O’Hagan, N McParland, C Mooney; P Turley, N Donnelly; R Millar, K McKernan, C Maginn; S Dornan, C Harrison, R Johnston.
N Madine for Harrison (BC, 29), D McKibbin for McKernan (BC, 31), J Flynn for Mooney (38), C Poland for Donnelly (51), C Francis for Turley (66).
Cormac Reilly (Meath)