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Cavan manager hails 'passionate' players as Armagh left to rue missed chances

 

Happy man: Mickey Graham
Happy man: Mickey Graham
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Cavan shoved Armagh aside in their Ulster semi-final replay in Clones on a 0-23 to 0-17 scoreline to reach their first provincial decider in 18 years.

They will play Donegal, conquerors of Tyrone in the Saturday night fixture, in the showpiece on June 23.

Armagh midfielder Jarlath Óg Burns left the ground in an ambulance, with reports from the Orchard camp that he was suffering from dehydration.

He was taken off in the drawn game with mention of a possible concussion, though this was later denied by Armagh officials.

Cavan manager Mickey Graham was a player the last time the county won the Ulster title in 1997, and was in jubilant form afterwards.

"The way I always look at replays is that when you get a second chance in life, you have to grab it," he said.

"Some teams look at it and see it as a missed opportunity, we looked at it as an opportunity to back up our performance and maybe take it to another level and I felt it was in us."

Graham has an awesome record of replays, dating back to when he was still a club player for Cavan Gaels and managed Butlersbridge to a Junior Championship in 2004, and outlined his thoughts on the nature of such encounters.

“If we had have lost last week, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that so I said to the lads, ‘You have an opportunity now, if you don’t go and put a performance in today, there are no excuses. You get two cracks at it, how many cracks do you want?’

“I am delighted for them, those lads that put a lot into it and got a lot of criticism down through the years for not playing with passion and pride.

“I think you saw it in abundance there. Armagh asked lots of questions of us mentally and in fairness the lads came up with the answers.

“Our backs were against the wall at a stage when Armagh came back to a point, you could have folded but in fairness to them they didn’t and the right lads got on the ball and made it count.”

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney was left to rue a big lost chance to get to an Ulster final, but a lack of composure on the ball and in front of goal was the undoing he identified.

Of the three goal chances they passed up in the first half, he said: “Yeah, and then another one at the end there.

“Shieldsy (Mark Shields) kicked it over the bar at a time it could have brought us level but I’m proud of the fellas. They really went at it.

“Cavan play a high press game but it leaves you open at the back and when you have four or five good goal chances and you don’t take any of them it is always going to be tough, but credit to Cavan too — they took their scores and that was the difference.

“We needed to bag a goal and we are good at normally getting a goal or two and the fellas knew themselves they were missing easy chances and that can have an effect on you.

“Sometimes you don’t pull the trigger as quickly as you should and you are not as confident. But in fairness to the lads up front even after a bad start Rian and Jamie really came into it and pushed on, it was an up and down game and then when we were stretched at the end they were able to knock on a couple of scores, it’s tough but in fairness they died with their boots on.”

Graham attributed Cavan’s composure to the lessons learned in six league defeats.

“In the heat of battle, that’s when you need the right men on the ball,” he said.

“During the league, we weren’t doing that. We were giving the ball away cheaply when we found ourselves in positions to win games and it cost us. But have we learned in Division One this year.

“And that was a hard learning curve but it stood to us in this Ulster Championship.”

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