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Cavan return to Ulster final with stunning comeback victory over Down

Mickey Graham’s side turned around an eight-point deficit to win.

Killian Clarke gets a shot away despite the attention of Down's Pierce Laverty.
Killian Clarke gets a shot away despite the attention of Down's Pierce Laverty.
Image: Matt Mackey/INPHO

Down 1-13 

Cavan 1-14

Declan Bogue reports from the Athletic Grounds

IT’S a repeat of last year’s Ulster final as Cavan turned around an eight-point deficit at half-time to stage an incredible comeback. 

The weather conditions was always going to have a huge effect on some of these Ulster matches and it was the case here. Not because there was a wind aiding Down as they careered into a 1-9 to 0-4 lead by the break, but because their pace and handling was so much smarter. 

Down had a goal when Jerome Johnston laid off to Ceilum Doherty to smack home, and had further goal chances when Johnston – who was riding high on confidence after a series of brilliant points – was blocked down by a superb Padraig Faulkner full length dive. The other came when Caolan Mooney’s pace took him beyond the Cavan cover with a soccer dribble, but Raymond Galligan was equal to it. 

Playing their fifth game in five weeks, following league games against Roscommon and Kildare, and Championship encounters with Monaghan and Antrim, Mickey Graham’s men looked leggy and tired. The heavy pitch took a toll while Down looked far more full of energy. 

The late introduction of Liam Kerr by Down boss Paddy Tally was a clever move, given the Burren man’s raw pace against a tired rearguard. 

But when Cavan got into their huddle at half-time they made some key adjustments. Thomas Galligan was put in at full-forward and denied Down their sweeper in Kevin McKernan. 

Conor Madden came on at the break and scored three points from play and set up two other points. 

Cavan manager Mickey Grahan also pushed Padraig Faulkner into a more advanced midfield role after the break and they just swamped the middle thereafter. 

No fewer than 10 of Down’s 14 kickouts were claimed by Cavan in the second half, Mourne goalkeeper Rory Burns being put under savage pressure.  

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While Down only scored four more points, they couldn’t get their game going whatsoever. They still spurned a glorious goal chance on 40 minutes when Mooney’s pace took him through and while he was passing to the unmarked Paul Devlin, Conor Poland appeared to come out of nowhere to attempt a diving fist, but only steered it wide. 

Cavan’s comeback gone underway in earnest a minute later when Martin Reilly tucked a penalty after the umpires adjudged Kevin McKernan to have touched the ball on the ground. 

From then on a steady stream of points carried them home, Gearoid McKiernan exerting an ever-growing influence as the game went down the stretch. 

Scorers for Down: J Johnston 0-6, 1m, D O’Hare 0-4, 3f, C Doherty 1-0, P Devlin 0-2, 1x’45′

Scorers for Cavan: G McKiernan 0-3f, T Galligan 0-3, 1m, M Reilly 1-0 Pen, C Madden 0-3, K Brady 0-2, P Faulkner, C Brady 0-1 each, S Smith 0-1f

DOWN: R Burns; P Fegan, P Murdock, P Laverty; L Kerr, K McKernan, D Guinness; C Mooney, J Flynn; B O’Hagan, P Devlin, C Poland; J Johnston, D O’Hare, C Doherty

Subs: S Johnston for Kerr (49m), D Ward for Devlin (51m), C Quinn for O’Hagan (57m), J Guinness for Poland (65m), R Johnston for D Guinness (67m)

CAVAN: R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, L Fortune; G Smith, C Brady, P Graham; K Clarke, K Brady; M Reilly, G McKiernan, O Kiernan; O Pierson, T Galligan, S Smith

Subs: C Conroy for Graham, C Madden for Pierson (half-time), TE Donoghue for S Smith (51m), C Timoney for K Brady (60m), N Murray for M Reilly (69m)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)

About the author:

Declan Bogue

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