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Cavan give Armagh a lesson in tactics

By Declan Bogue

Cavan 1-15 Armagh 1-11: To sweep or not to sweep; that is the question. It was answered emphatically by a stirring Cavan performance that put them into the first round proper against Fermanagh, after they beat Armagh by four points on the scoreboard, but won hands down in the tactical exchanges.

Throughout this season, Armagh manager Paul Grimley was adamant he was going to play an attacking, exciting brand of football, with personnel committed to daring play. It led to alarming score concessions and here in Breffni Park, chickens came home to roost.

Earlier in the week, Armagh were sticking to the script of 'Avanti, Avanti, Avanti'. Meanwhile in the famous old Cavan venue, they said little and laid their traps.

After two years of being dumped out of Ulster by Donegal, Cavan manager Terry Hyland had clearly spent time studying what it is exactly that the All-Ireland champions do.

Lessons learned from Donegal, number one; provide a lure.

In captain Alan Clarke, they had a sweeper free from responsibility of marking, covering the crucial central area around the 21 metre line. Broadly speaking given the example of their underage sides, this is the house style now of Cavan.

Grimley reacted after just 19 minutes, taking off defender Finian Moriarty and sending on an extra attacker in Ethan Rafferty.

Huge spaces between midfield and the backline opened up for Eugene Keating and Martin Dunne.

Quarrying ball and getting it to the inside line was the job of Cian Mackey and Fergal Flanagan who exhausted and spent themselves in a glorious cause. Their workrate throughout was phenomenal.

Immediately after the Armagh switch occurred, Mackey latched on to a ball by Ronan Flanagan and he burrowed through the middle to slot the ball into the top corner.

Brendan Donaghy was sent on to curtail Keating, but the advantage always lies with an attacker if he has space to make runs into, and the blues were worth their lead at the break.

Lessons learned from Donegal, number two; take your time coming out.

After the half-time break, the Armagh players were stranded out on the field, maybe occasionally sneaking a peak at the scoreboard, which would have told them they were lagging by five points.

When they were good and ready, Cavan re-appeared to a huge reception.

Yes, it's a cavalier approach to the 'rules' and there may, or may not, be a small fine on its way to Breffni.

But it's clever.

All that aside, Armagh were more proactive in the early stages of the second half, and were fuming after Jamie Clarke (pictured) for once wriggled clear of Jason McLoughlin, firing to the net but referee Maurice Deegan called it back for a free.

With James Lavery dominating the clean catches and Caolan Rafferty alert to the breaks, Armagh began to squeeze tight.

In response, Keating drifted out to midfield, sending David Givney in the opposite direction.

It paid off instantly when Keating won a ball in midfield which was played through Niall McDermott and Givney to Dunne who pointed.

While Dunne missed a few, he gave marker Paul McKeown a toasting.

Still Armagh persisted and after Clarke was blocked down the ball squirted to Ethan Rafferty to poke home and leave one point in it.

Cavan drove on with four unanswered points; two from Dunne to create an insurmountable margin. It could have been even greater had Keating laid off to an unmarked Dunne instead of firing straight at Armagh goalkeeper Philip McEvoy coming into the final quarter, or if Jack Brady had have done the same instead of drawing another late save from McEvoy.

But they won't care about that.

Not a county that haven't tasted victory in Ulster since they beat Fermanagh on this turf since 2009.

In little over a decade, Cavan have handed Championship debuts to 70 players.

They are on their seventh management team in the same period. Finally, it seems they have learned of continuity.

In Terry Hyland, Anthony Forde and Peter Donnelly they have a solid management in place and if this team needs time, they should get it rather than the cycle of mediocrity be extended any longer than it needs to be.

After the game, the Ulster Council fixed their next game away to Fermanagh, a repeat of the first round qualifier from last year, at Brewster Park, despite the fears surrounding a clash with the G8 summit.

Hard to guess whether the security in Enniskillen that day will be higher around the Lough Erne resort, or on the pitch as Peter Canavan – looking on from the stands here – will be well aware.

CAVAN: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, R Dunne, K Clarke; J McEnroe (0-1), A Clarke [Capt], R Flanagan; D O'Reilly (0-1), D Givney; C Mackey (1-0), K Brady, F Flanagan; N McDermott 0-2, 1f), M Dunne (0-9, 1f), E Keating (0-2). Subs: M Reilly for Brady (47m), J Brady for McDermott (64)], J McCutcheon for O'Reilly (66m), M McKeever for Mackey (67m).

Yellow cards: Brady [8], McEnroe [43], McLoughlin [50], Givney [57, 67]. Red cards: Givney [67]

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; P McKeown, D McKenna, M Shields (0-1); A Kernan (0-2, 2f), F Moriarty, C McKeever [Capt]; J Lavery, S Harold; C Rafferty (0-1), C O'Hanlon, K Dyas; T Kernan (0-2, 1xsideline), J Clarke, S Forker (0-4, 2xf). Subs: E Rafferty (1-0) for Moriarty (19m), Donaghy for McKenna (30m), J Hanratty for O'Hanlon (50m), E McVerry (0-1) for Forker (55m), G McParland for C Rafferty (66m).

Yellow cards: Clarke (13), McKenna (25)

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

Attendance: 12,556

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