Kevin Madden: Rory Beggan's role in Monaghan win was huge
WHAT a dramatic finish to a truly exciting and enjoyable Ulster Championship game.
The fact that Cavan created two very good goal chances in injury-time, made me feel that a replay would have been a fair enough result.
By the letter of the law, the tackle on Cavan sub Ciaran Brady was a penalty, merely due to the fact that in the initial contact there was a slight pull of the jersey.
The tackling after that looked legitimate, but it must also be said that as he reached his arm in to make a tackle, Neil McAdam went to ground, which often is a no-no for referees.
In the end, there were two major factors separating the teams. If you are a roguish sort, you may call the first one experience, craft or cuteness. Or if you are more the pious type, then you would say that Cavan didn't stoop to a level of cynicism which may have won them the game.
If the penny didn't drop for Conor Moynagh when Conor McManus stuck the ball in the net, then it most likely did as he watched the outstanding Owen Duffy taking a black card near the end to disrupt a promising Cavan attack.
The way McManus cleverly sidestepped the onrushing Moynagh would have made a drag-down very difficult. In fact, it was almost impossible to execute, so a reckless trip would have been the only option.
I for one was glad that didn't happen and I don't think it is fair for anyone to berate the Cavan defender for not “taking out” one of the finest footballers in the country.
My point is there was a fair chance he would have had to hurt McManus to achieve his objective.
The second major difference between the sides was the man in question.
Monaghan possessed an inside-forward, a
go-to man, who could change a game if given half-a-chance.
I thought that Padraig Faulkner got caught ball-watching for the goal which allowed McManus the inside ground. This happened for another score in the first half and from a defender's viewpoint that never should happen.
When you add the McManus contribution to the four points scored by Owen Duffy and the impact of supersub Conor McCarthy, then it is fair to make the conclusion that Monaghan held more aces in attack.
Cavan had a good spread of scorers, but bar the excellent Cian Mackey, they lacked the same go-to men that could turn the game on its head. In the end, more than half (0-8) of their scores came from frees.
It was interesting to see how much respect Monaghan showed to Cavan midfielder Gearoid McKiernon. Neil McAdam never left his side at any stage and, bar an outstanding first half point, his impact going forward was well curtailed.
I found Cavan's approach to the Monaghan kick-out very positive and at the same time a little naive. With a strong wind at their backs in the first half, Cavan did their best to maximise the advantage by pushing up as often as possible. Fair enough.
But when the opposition all suck in and you press man-to-man, a huge kicker like Rory Beggan can pick the big pockets of space left.
In the first half, his long kick-out to Karl O'Connell cleared 20 outfield players to leave Cavan very exposed on a move that should have seen Owen Duffy hit the net.
On another occasion, we got to see something that I can never remember seeing before in a Gaelic football match. As Beggan kicked long, O'Connell was nudged in the back. From the resulting free, against a gale force wind, Beggan struck the ball over the bar.
Two kicks to take him the length of the field, and with no kick or fist pass from any other player, it was a one-man move from goal to goal.
Fortune did favour the brave on other occasions with scores coming as the result of ball won off the Monaghan kick-out or Beggan kicking out of play.
I was surprised, however, to see Cavan pushing right up on Monaghan kick-outs when playing against the wind in the early stages of the second half.
They were a couple of points to the good at this stage so having their defensive shape in place should have superseded the chance of possession.
Again, a long Beggan delivery cleared 24 players to fall into the arms of Kieran Hughes, who placed Jack McCarron for an easy score.
Raymond Galligan also had a fine game, pulling off an outstanding save, but between the sticks Monaghan also held the edge as Beggan's free-taking and kick-outs were top class.