Man of the match, Conor Murray (22) fires past Cavan keeper Raymond Galligan as the Saffron’s recoded a fine win at Woodlands 4G pitch on Sunday in round 2 of the McKenna Cup
Dr McKenna Cup (round two)
Antrim 4-10 Cavan 2-14
Following a defeat to McKenna Cup holders Tyrone on the opening day of the 2018 version Lenny Harbinson’s men returned to the fray in the second round fully refreshed, and proved just too strong for the visiting Cavan men in a hugely watchable affair at Woodland’s on Sunday.
The Breffni men had started with a win gained over St Mary’s in their mid-week opener and looked likely to double their points tally when they nipped away to an early lead as corner forward Bryan Magee, who had raised a 2nd minute white flag followed up with a goal, a minute later.
The Saffron’s had missed a first minute opportunity to draw first blood when Michael McCarry fired just wide of the posts, but they were on the board in the 6th minute when Patrick McBride steered a 30 metre free kick between the posts following a foul on the dashing Conor Murray. The latter followed to double the tally a minute later when he raced through the middle to split the posts.
Both McBride and Murray were set to cause Cavan a lot of problems with their direct running throughout and although the Breffni men extended their advantage again when Oisin Kernan seized upon a loose pass to transfer over the bar, the home side were soon back on the offensive when Patrick McBride hoisted a further three white flags in succession to leave it 0-05 to 1-02.
The St John’s man was unerring in his finishing as he firmly punished respective indiscretions on Conor Murray, Odhran Eastwood, and Paddy McAleer and the Saffron’s looked on the march.
The visitors were struggling to deal with the direct assault on the posts and the strong direct running game by the Antrim men, led by Patrick McBride and Conor Murray and with Niall McKeever and Paddy McAleer also to the fore.
The Saffron’s having dominated since the early minutes were gaining in composure and when Niall McKeever and Conor Murray combined to send Patrick McBride in to grab a scintillating 21st minute goal Lenny Harbinson’s men had nicked the lead, 1-05 to 1-02.
Cavan’s goal scorer Bryan Magee did split to posts to halt the one way flow but Antrim were soon back on the forward march again with Conor Murray and Patrick McBride in the vanguard as the latter sent the former in to grab a 23rd minute goal and ensure a five point lead for the home side.
Left:Paddy McBride fires to the Cavan net. Right: Matt Fitzpatrick takes on David Phillips
Having been on the back foot for a while the Breffni men regained the initiative for a time as Niall McKiernan (2), and Oisin Kernan raised white flags apiece but it was Antrim who had the last say of the opening half as another forceful approach and slick finish earned a late point to ensure the home side went in at the break full value for a 2-06 to 1-06 lead.
Cavan started the second half as they had in the first on the positive and as Antrim were forced on the defensive the visitors made the opening mark as Bryan Magee sent a 25-metre free over the bar in the 37th minute.
The home side seemed to have lost composure during the opening exchanges and after Paddy Gallagher went forward to send just wide of the target the resultant kick out saw Cavan replacement Niall Clerkin collect and signal arrival with a 43rd minute point.
Antrim were reduced to a slender one point lead but when Matthew Fitzpatrick and Michael McCarry combined to send substitute Ryan Murray in to blast to the net in the 50th minute they seemed reinvigorated.
A precision based build up and a slick finish restored a four point lead and after Cavan made reply via Connor Madden’s 52nd minute point the Saffron’s were back occupying the driving seat and seemingly in control when Conor Murray added a goal shortly thereafter.
Stephen Beatty had intercepted at the back and after his clearance found Matthew Fitzpatrick who passed onward to the strong running Conor Murray via his sibling Ryan the finish was excellent from the wing half forward.
Murray, who was to earn ‘the man of the match award’, planted the leather in the corner of the net to see the home side step forward to a healthy 4-06 to 1-09 advantage.
Cavan looked down, but in the event the Breffni Blues were far from out and back they came strongly. Bryan Magee split the posts and although Conor Murray replied with a similar score, Padraig Faulkner picked up a loose clearance to open the way for Niall McKiernan to fire to the back of the Antrim net in the 61st minute. Enda Flanagan added a point and the margin was reduced to a couple of points and the home side looked in a bit of trouble.
They replied through a Mark Sweeney point in the 65th minute to increase the gap to three points but Cavan were now in full flight and points from Connor Brady, and Enda Flanagan saw just the minimum separate the sides as the game clock ticked towards the 70 minutes mark.
A Ryan Murray point seemed to have settled the issue with Antrim a couple ahead as ‘injury time’ progressed but the Cavan men were far from finished.
Bryan Magee held his nerve, and indeed his aim when he directed a 30 metre free between the posts in the 71st minute but when presented with a similar chance within a minute the corner forward saw his effort go astray and opened the way for the Saffron’s to counter.
Conor Murray dashed up-field with Patrick McBride in attendance and as the former supplied the latter the result was a fine 73rd minute point and a 4-10 to 2-14 win for Antrim.
Referee J Corcoran (Fear Manach)
Antrim:Chris Kerr, Conor Hamill, Paddy Gallagher, Niall Delargy, Kevin O’ Boyle, Mark Sweeney (0-01), Paddy McAleer, Sean Burke, Niall McKeever, Patrick McBride (1-05), Connor Murray (2-03), Matthew Fitzpatrick, Michael McCarry, Colum Duffin, Odhran Eastwood.
Stephen Beatty for S Burke
Sean McVeigh for N McKeever
James Laverty for P McAleer
Pat Brannigan for K O’ Boyle
Connell Lemon for C Hamill
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Jason McLoughlin, Damien McIntyre, David Phillips, Darragh Kennedy, Ciaran Brady, Dan Wharton, Sean McCormack, David Brady, Connor Bradley, Jack Wharton, Oisin Kernan (0-02), Niall McKernan (1-02), Adrian Cole, Bryan Magee (1-05)
Jack Wharton for A Cole
Donal Monahan for S McCormack
Conor Brady (0-02) for N Clerkin
Enda Flanagan (0-02) for C Bradley
Niall Clerkin (0-01) for J Wharton
Ulster chairman, Michael Hasson presents the man of the match award to Antrim’s Conor Murray. Included in the photograph is Terry McCrudden of sponsors Bank of Ireland.