Armagh 1-12 Cavan 0-9
Armagh turned the corner following a miserable league to hit form when it mattered, handing out a six points beating to Cavan to avenge last season’s defeat and advance to the Ulster SFC semi-final.
Caolan Rafferty smashed home the only goal of the game in the second half to confirm Orchard dominance in front of 14,991 spectators at the Athletic Grounds.
Cavan simply never got going in this uninspiring contest, held scoreless for 40 minutes by a dogged Orchard defence.
Jamie Clarke scored four points, while Aaron Kernan made a welcome return from injury, coming off the bench to contribute three scores to the cause.
After a five-minute delay caused by a furious punch-up between both sets of players prior to the pre-match parade, the game got off to a much more sedate start.
Eugene Keating converted two frees inside the opening seven minutes, but the Breffni men failed to add a further score in the first half.
It was Armagh, playing with a heavily fortified defence, who took up the running, with Ciaran McKeever and Andy Mallon making penetrating runs from the back.
Clarke hit thjeir first score in the ninth minute, reacting first after Stefan Campbell’s effort had come back off a post.
Eugene McVerry knocked over a couple of frees, giving the home side the lead for the first time in the 22nd minute.
Clarke added another from a free, but Armagh’s finishing was a major worry, 11 wides in the first half alone preventing them from going comfortably in front.
Cavan moved full forward David Givney to midfield in an attempt to break the stranglehold imposed by Kieran Toner and Aaron Findon, but the switch failed to make any appreciable difference to their laboured approach.
The Armagh defence, with James Morgan holding Keating scoreless from play, got the match-ups just about spot-on, and squeezed their opponents out of the game, holding the visitors scoreless for 40 minutes.
The Orchard men, despite kicking 11 wides, chalked pushed into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead, with Clarke converting a couple of frees just before the break.
Cian Mackey, unable to start due to injury, was one of three players sprung from the bench at half-time, but it was an experienced Armagh substitute, Aaron Kernan, who made the most impact.
He got on the end of a move involving McKeever and McVerry to punch over the first of his three points, making it 0-8 to 0-2 ten minutes into the second half.
Cavan finally began to get some momentum going, and Givney ended a 40-minute barren spell with their first score from play.
They followed up with three on the spin, with Gearoid McKiernan, Givney again, and corner back Feargal Flanagan all finding the target.
But Armagh got in for the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute, Caolan Rafferty latching on to Clarke’s dropping delivery to rifle the ball to the net from a tight angle.
Cavan were unable to pick themselves up, and it was Armagh who threatened to net again, but goalkeeper Conor Gilsenan saved from Clarke and Kernan.
McKiernan and Mackey landed Breffni points, but, trailing by five going into the final five minutes, they badly needed a goal.
James Morgan and Brendan Donaghy dictated that the line would not be breached, and the Orchard survived with a measure of comfort.
Cavan lost James McEnroe and Robert Maloney-Derham to black cards, while Armagh attacker Ethan Rafferty, who had been booked, saw black, followed by red.
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, 1 ’45), J Clarke (0-4, 2f).
Subs: A Kernan (0-3, 1f) for Shields, K Carragher for Campbell, T Kernan for McVerry,
G McCooey for Clarke
Cavan: C Gilsenan, J McLaughlin, R Dunne, F Flanagan (0-1), J McEnroe, A Clarke, D O’Reilly, G McKiernan (0-2, 1f), K Brady, D McVeety, N McDermott, M Reilly, E Keating (0-2, 2f), D Givney (0-2), J Brady.
Subs: C Mackey (0-1) for O’Reilly, Robert Maloney-Derham for K Brady, Turloc Mooney for McDermott, M Argue for Clarke, J Hahes for Maloney-Derham, Maloney-Derham for McEnroe (BC), M McKeever (0-1) for Maloney-Derham (BC)
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo)