Saffrons rue missed chances as Cavan progress

Conor Murray evades the attentions of Chris Conroy in Breffni Park.

Ulster Senior Football Championship

Antrim 0-9 Cavan 0-13

Saturday November 7

Report by Brendan McTaggart

Photographs by John McIlwaine

Antrim’s championship ended in Kingspan Breffni Park with the home side winning by four points at the end of the 70 minutes.  It boiled down to a story of missed chances for the Saffrons who were huge underdogs but on a day when they needed everything to go their way, they missed 1-4 in the third quarter that allowed Cavan to drive home their own game after an impressive opening half from Lenny Harbinson’s men.  Tactically, Antrim had Cavan’s number in the first half and held a one point lead at half time but they couldn’t curtail the Breffni men in the second half.

Cavan started brightly and an early sign of their intent as they camped Antrim in their own ’45.  The Saffrons defended in numbers and stifled the Breffni men, restricting their scoring chances and making Cavan shoot from difficult positions.

Jason McLoughlin and Oisin Kiernan had the home side two points up by the sixth minute but Antrim came into the game with Michael McCann in a quarter-back roll.  Dermot McAleese fired their opening point of the game with a delicious score with the outside of his right and while Antrim defended in numbers, they were more economical and intelligent in attack.  They used the possession and didn’t panic, manoeuvring the Cavan defence to get the right man in the right position.  Points from Paddy Cunningham (free) and McCann edged Antrim in front by the 14th minute and the Saffrons were more than holding their own.

Ciaran Brady and Conor Murray exchanged points by the 16th minute before the waterbreak to give Antrim a one point lead at the water break, 0-4 to 0-3.

Cavan continued to press and look for spaces in the Antrim defence but Antrim’s work-rate and positional sense in defence restricted them with their wide tally reaching six for the half and four efforts dropping short.

Mick McCann who was instrumental for the Saffrons on Saturday afternoon

The move of the first half involving four Antrim men and quick hands resulted in Cunningham scoring his second score of the game to give the Saffron’s a two point lead for the first time by the 24th minute.  Cormac Timoney responded with the next attack for the home side but Antrim continued to impress with their patient attacking game and defensive astuteness.  A superb score from Kevin Quinn restored Antrim’s two point lead in the 31st minute and while Ciaran Brady had the final say of the half scoring wise in the 35th minute, the Saffrons were further boosted after Killian Brady was issued a black card for an inicident involving Paddy McBride in first half injury time with Antrim holding a 0-6 to 0-5 lead.

The numerical advantage did little to help Antrim at the opening stages of the second half.  Cavan upped their intensity in the breakdown and restricted the Saffrons who didn’t add to their tally until the 23rd minute of the second half.  

The pivotal moment of the game came just five minutes after the restart however.  Goal chances were at a premium throughout and Antrim carved out a glorious chance through Paddy Gallagher.  Two one-two’s took him through the heart of the Cavan defence from the Antrim left and as he cut inside to get his shot away, Padraig Faulkner’s tackle was just enough to put the Glenavy man off his stride and Raymon Galligan produced a save from point blank range.

Where the Saffrons were economical in the first half, they were more wasteful after the restart.  Chances dropping short and efforts going wide gave Cavan more confidence and in substitutes Thomas Galligan and Thomas Edward Donohue they had the physical presence to give the Saffrons another problem to think about.

Cavan reeled off four unansered points through Killian Clarke, Gearoid McKiernan (free), Donohue (mark) and Oisin Kiernan before substitute Tomas McCann finally opened Antrim’s account in the second half.  The Cargin man firing over after Conor Murray was felled and Gerard Smith getting a black card.  Antrim once again with a numerical advantage but Cavan were more precise in attack.  McKiernan and Donohue with quick fire scores to stretch the home sides lead to four points.

Antrim continued to press as Cavan retreated looking to play on the counterattack.  Paddy McBride reduced the lead to three points from a free before Oisin Pierson was black carded and the Breffni men were down to 13 men four minutes of the 70 remaining.

Conor Murray reduced the Cavan lead to two points in the 68th minute but that was the Saffrons last score of the contest.  They looked for ways to penetrate the Cavan defence and manoeuvre the ball into scoring positions but the home side defended superbly.  Donohue and McKiernan added gloss to the score line for Cavan and took their own tally to three points each and leave four points between the sides at the final whistle.

An ultimately disappointing day for the Saffrons who looked to be on their way to causing a shock but the difference in league divisions was apparent as the game progressed with Cavan more incisive when it mattered in the second half.


Antrim: Oisin Kerr; Paddy Gallagher, Declan Lynch, Kevin O’Boyle; Peter Healy, James McAuley, Niall Delargy; Colum Duffin, Michael McCann (0-1); Kevin Quinn (0-1), Mark Sweeney, Dermot McAleese (0-1); Paddy Cunningham (0-2, 1f), Conor Murray (0-2, 1 mark), Paddy McBride (0-1, 1f)

Subs: Paddy McCormick for N Delargy (ht); Odhran Eastwood for C Duffin (51); Tomas McCann (0-1f) for P Cunningham (51); Marc Jordan for D McAleese (55); Ruairi McCann for T McCann (60)

Yellow card: Marc Jordan (69)

Black Card: n/a

Red Card: n/a

Cavan: Raymond Galligan; Jason McLoughlin (0-1), Killian Clarke (0-1), Killian Brady; Gerard Smith, Ciaran Brady (0-2), Luke Fortune; Cormac Timoney (0-1), Padraig Faulkner; Martin Reilly, Gearoid McKiernan (0-3, 1f), Oisin Kiernan (0-2); Oisin Pierson, Stephen Smith, Cormac O’Reilly

Subs: Thomas Galligan for S Smith (ht); Thomas Edward Donohue (0-3, 1 mark) for O Pierson (42); Chris Conroy for K Brady (46); Niall Murray for C O’Reilly (48)

Yellow card: M Reilly (21); K Clarke (33); C O’Reilly (47)

Black Card: Killian Brady (35+2); Gerard Smith (57); Oisin Kiernan (66)

Red Card: n/a

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