Antrim 0-10 Cavan 1-20
Cavan put in a huge display to move into the semi-finals of the Ulster Senior Football Championship as they dominated Antrim to run out 13-point winners at Corrigan Park on Saturday.
Paddy Lynch played a starring role on his championship debut with eight points, but the Breffnimen had star performers throughout the field against the hosts who, apart from a 10-minute spell before the break, were decidedly second best.
One point may have been the difference at the change of ends, but with wind advantage in the second period, Cavan put daylight between the team s with Michael McCann’s dismissal 18 minutes from time helping open the floodgates further as Cavan move on and Antrim drop into the Tailteann Cup.
There had been a little bit of controversy last month when it seemed this game would have been moved out of Belfast, but the venue made no odds to Cavan. “It was actually a motivation factor for us,” said manager Mickey Graham.
“We were looking forward to coming up here after everything that was made about it. In fairness, the players and management had nothing to do with that. We just said that we are going up there to put in a performance and it doesn’t matter where we play.
“Their appetite was questioned during the league and we did stutter a lot of the way through, but it was all geared towards today.”
Gerard Smith would kick Cavan into a fifth-minute lead after two early chances came and went, while Antrim goalkeeper Mick Byrne then was not tested by James Smith whose effort was an easy gather, but Byrne then made a point-blank save from Cormac O’Reilly.
James Smith did finally add to the Cavan tally and a Gearoid McKiernan free had them three up on 19 minutes as Antrim started to find a way to create opportunities, but they too were wasteful with their efforts.
The home side finally got on the board in the 24th minute as Ryan Murray pointed brilliantly out on the left. Cavan would respond and then again when Dermott McAleese pointed, but Antrim were now looking a lot better and out-scored the visitors by four to two in the closing stages of the half with Murray launching over another beauty from the left to pull the Saffrons to within one at the break.
When Conor Murray tied the game from a free two minutes after the restart, for a moment we thought we were in for a real battle in the second half, but Cavan quickly put those notions to rest with Gerard Smith and Lynch landing quickfire braces. While Kevin Small did pull one back, things would quickly unravel for the hosts with Cavan rattling off three-in-a-row including a trademark long free from goalkeeper Raymond Galligan. Antrim were reduced to 14 with Michael McCann picking up a second yellow on 52 minutes.
Six points was the margin on 59 minutes when any faint hopes Antrim still harboured were well and truly killed off as from a sideline, Martin Reilly found Lynch who this turn turned provider to put Gearoid McKiernan in to blash home.
Ryan Murray did respond with his third point of the afternoon for Antrim, but Cavan kept the foot on the pedal in the closing stages with five late points.
Lynch kicked his eighth of the afternoon, while Martin Reilly got in on the act with two of his own and defenders Paddy Faulkner and Jason McLoughlin also chipped in to seal a dominant Cavan performance and place in the semi-final, while Antrim will now aim to regroup for the Tailteann Cup.
“We had a reasonable League,” said Antrim assistant manager Stephen O’Neill after the match. “We were battling to get up, but this is just a disappointing end to the championship. We just have to regroup and focus now on the Tailteann Cup.
“The season’s not over so hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves there because that (today) was not a good account of the quality of the players. We’ll take a break now and get back at it.”
Antrim: M Byrne; E McCabe, P Healy, D McAleese (0-1); P McAleer (0-1), J Laverty, M Jordan; K Small (0-1), M McCann (0-1); R Murray (0-3), C Stewart (0-1), R McCann; O Eastwood, C Murray (0-1 free), T McCann
Subs: J Gribbon (0-1) for R McCann (13 mins), P McBride for O Eastwood (h-t), D Lynch for T McCann (h-t), B McCormick for J Laverty (64 mins), P McCormick for E McCabe (64 mins).
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1, free); J McLoughlin (0-1), P Faulkner (0-1), K Brady; L Fortune, K Clarke, Conor Brady; T Galligan, J Smith (0-1); G Smith (0-3), G McKiernan (1-2, one free), C Moynagh; Cormac O'Reilly (0-1), P Lynch (0-8, five frees, one mark), C Madden.
Subs: C Conroy for K Brady (55 mins), M Reilly (0-2) for Cormac O'Reilly (57 mins), Caoimhin O'Reilly for C Madden (65 mins), Ciaran Brady for Conor Brady (67 mins), R O'Neill for P Lynch (70 mins).
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)