I need time to decide future after Down's exit: Burns
Cavan 1-14 Down 0-15
Down may have fretted that lady luck tended to desert them in an Allianz League campaign that yielded nothing but disappointment in relegation to Division Three, but it was nothing to the utter heartbreak they suffered in this fraught All-Ireland qualifier.
Deprived of the services of injured ace scorer Donal O'Hare before the start and then stripped of Connaire Harrison and Kevin McKernan via black cards with half an hour gone, the Mourne side's cup of woe was soon filled to overflowing.
Ryan Johnston was shown a red card in the 48th minute before Anthony Doherty incurred a similar sanction after the final whistle during heated exchanges, with Cavan duo Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh similarly censured in an explosive climax.
It's little wonder that manager Eamonn Burns has decided to take time out to weigh up his future after the rich promise which the season offered his side descended into utter heartbreak.
"I thought we put up a performance that could have won us the game," declared Burns.
"I didn't see what happened that led to the two black cards in the first half. I don't think there was an awful lot to the red card that Ryan Johnston received. But it was telling at that point in the game. We were four points up but they went on to have an extra man plus a slight breeze in their favour."
Yet while lamenting his team's misfortunes, Burns was at pains to applaud their courage and character.
"I thought we manned up, we didn't lie down under it and we kept going right until the end," he said. "We had a chance in added time when Darren O'Hagan went for a goal but these decisions are made in milliseconds and I can't fault him for that."
It was after Cavan sprinted into a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage that Down slowly began to find their rhythm and despite the loss of McKernan and Harrison, they led by 0-10 to 0-8 at half-time with Ronan Millar, Anthony Doherty and Sean Dornan sparking their points blitz.
And when this was translated into a 0-13 to 0-9 lead in the 47th minute, visions of an extended Championship season began to form.
But Johnston's red card a minute later, the concession of the most unlikely of soft goals when Shane Harrison fumbled Gearoid McKiernan's hopeful lob in the 53rd minute, an unexpected brace of points from Oisin Kiernan and Padraig Faulkner and goalkeeper James Farrelly's stupendous save to thwart Darren O'Hagan's bid to salvage the game all combined to turn hope into despair for the Mournemen.
"We'll let the dust settle on this one and see where we are. I will speak with my family, my backroom team and Down officials before I decide my future," added Burns.
His Cavan counterpart Mattie McGleenan, with typical candour, admitted that his side benefited from the rub of the green that deserted Down.
"Down played serious football and we probably stole it if we're honest," said former Tyrone star McGleenan. "We didn't play anywhere near what we're capable of. In fairness, we could not break them down. We're lucky to be in the hat for the next round."
Cavan: J Farrelly; K Brady, P Faulkner 0-1, E Flanagan; C Brady 0-2, C Moynagh, M Reilly; S McCormack 0-1, B Magee; O Kiernan 0-1, G McKiernan 1-2, N Murray 0-2; C Bradley 0-1, D McVeety 0-1, S Johnston 0-3 (f). Subs: F Reilly for K Brady (H/T), C Mackey for Magee (41), C O'Reilly for Johnston (41), A Cole for McCormack (51), N Clerkin for Bradley (60), J Mcloughlin for Flanagan (72). Yellow cards: K Brady (21), McCormack (43). Red cards: Johnston McVeety (75), Moynagh (75).
Down: S Harrison; R McAleenan, B McArdle, A Doherty 0-3 (2f 1'45), D O'Hagan, N McParland, C Mooney; P Turley 0-1, N Donnelly; R Millar 0-4 (3f), K McKernan 0-1, C Maginn 0-1; S Dornan 0-2, C Harrison 0-1, R Johnston. Subs: N Madine 0-1 for Harrison (BC 30), D McKibbin 0-1 for McKernan (30BC), J Flynn for Mooney (38), C Poland for Donnelly (51), C Francis for Turley (65). Red Cards: Johnston (48), Doherty (75).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).