Cavan 2-8 Armagh 0-11: Any lingering notion that the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup is nothing more than a gentle preamble into the more serious business of the GAA season was emphatically kicked into touch in this turbulent, fractious encounter at Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen yesterday.
Five red, four yellow, and two black cards provided telling evidence of a feisty narrative that blasted open rather than tamely nudged the door to 2016 open.
For Cavan, though, this was an early morsel of encouragement that manager Terry Hyland was happy to embrace despite the manner in which the contest was besmirched.
“The McKenna Cup always provides battles for everybody,” declared Hyland.
“We were probably that little bit more organised and the two early goals gave us a bit of breathing space.
“We set up defensively and tried to hit Armagh on the break and that probably sums up our game. At half-time we spoke about the effort we needed to keep putting in and while we had some fine individual displays this was in essence a fine team win.”
Indeed Cavan, inspired by Niall McDermott and Dara McVeety, looked set to enjoy a stroll in the park when they led 2-6 to 0-3 at the interval even though they played for the greater part of that period with 14 players and for the last 15 minutes with 13.
David Giveny was first to exit proceedings in the 6th-minute and he was followed to the dug-out by Joshua Hayes in the 20th yet Cavan, bolstered by fine twin strikes from Niall McDermott in the 7th minute and Christopher Conroy in the 20th minute, managed to maintain their shape and held their hosts to just one point from play in the opening 34 minutes.
Cavan’s ability to break quickly and use space intelligently severely troubled Armagh and Hyland’s men were good value for their handsome interval advantage.
Armagh enjoyed their best spell in the third quarter when Gavin McParland, Brendan Donaghy, Michael McKenna, Stefan Campbell, and Ethan Rafferty were all on target to trim Cavan’s lead to 2-7 to 0-8. Yet even though Cavan only managed to score twice after the break, Armagh contributed to their own misfortune by having Aaron Findon sent off in the 56th minute before Donaghy was dismissed four minutes later. In a tense finish, Armagh scooped points through Stefan Forker, McParland, and Rafferty but even after Killian Brady became the third Cavan player to incur the ultimate sanction, his side still held out to win.
M McNeice; R McCaughley, C Vernon, M Murray; S Forker 0-1 (f), C McKeever, A Forker; A Findon, N Grimley; R Grugan, N McConville, S Campbell 0-2; E Rafferty 0- 4 (2f), A Murnin, G McParland 0-2.
J McElroy for McCaughley (25), B Donaghy 0-1 for Murnin (Black card – 27), M McKenna 0-1 for McConville (half-time), E McVerry for Grimley (53), J Feeney for Campbell (53), J Hall for Vernon (Black Card – 58).
Findon (33), McKeever (39).
Findon (56), Donaghy (61).
A O’Meara; J Hayes, K Brady, P Faulkner; C Brady, N Murray, D McVeety; B Sankey, L Buchanan 0-1; C Conroy 1-2 (1f), N McDermott 1-1 (0-1f), E Henry 0-1; D Givney, T Moore, M Reilly 0-1 (f).
T Hayes 0-2 for Moore (44), T Carr for Conroy (46), B Tully for Henry (51), L Murphy for Sankey (52), P O’Connor for McDermott (66), J Brady for McVeety (68).
Givney (5), J Hayes (20), K Brady (70).
Barry Cassidy (Derry)
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