GAA Football

Cavan's Conor Madden enjoying having nudged rivals Monaghan out of Ulster

Allianz Football League Division one Monaghan v Cavan.16/03/20.Cavan Conor Madden Monaghan Gavin Doogan.Pic Philip Walsh.

NUDGE nudge, wink wink. Know what I mean? Cavan’s Conor Madden was always going to be smiling after their famous victory over Monaghan on Saturday night, but there was a cheeky edge to his grin as he recalled his part in the only goal of the game.

Referee Conor Lane deemed that the Gowna clubman had been fouled by Monaghan defender Drew Wylie and awarded a fifth minute penalty, confidently converted by Martin Reilly.

Madden smiled slightly as he said: “I just remember Marty Reilly picked me out with a ball, I couldn’t believe he actually picked me out.

“Just as I was getting my hands on the ball I felt a bit of a nudge. There wasn’t probably too much in it but when you’re moving at speed those sort of touches can send you over. Look it, Marty stuck it away, so it was a great start for us.”

Indeed that bright beginning, helping the hosts lead by 1-3 to no score inside seven minutes, was exactly what Cavan had hoped for, Madden admitted:

“The start was great – we said before the game we wanted to get on top of them early and then drive it on.

“Credit to Monaghan, we knew they were going to come back and they did, we were hanging on there for large parts of the second half, but the boys who came on [for us] made a huge difference.”

Monaghan, trailing by seven points at half-time, scored six of the first eight scores in the second period, but Cavan were prepared for that onslaught, said Madden:

“We did expect it and we tried to deal with it, but in fairness Monaghan are a seasoned team with some great players. I think we did well enough, we didn’t let them get to that stage where panic might set in. Big frees at the end that some of our boys kicked made a big difference.”

The effort expended in that opening period, resulting in Cavan’s 1-8 to 0-4 lead, was always going to cost the Breffnimen, as Madden acknowledged: “We put in a big shift in the first half, a lot of lads were very tired coming towards the end, so probably a bit of fatigue kicked in. Credit to the boys, they took their scores when they needed to.”

The performances at the other end of the pitch were impressive too. Cavan were criticised during their Division One campaign for conceding far too many scoreable frees but on Saturday night their tackling was mostly so clean that Monaghan only converted five frees:

“It was a credit to the boys, especially in the backs; they don’t rely on boys getting in front of them [to help out], they’re all very confident one-on-one. They have quality forwards, as we all know, but once they got on top of them it made our job a small bit easier out the field.”

Saturday night was one of understandable celebration for Cavan, after all their recent disappointments.

Only their third Ulster SFC win in this decade, it was also their first against the old enemy for almost 18 years, and a first derby victory at Kingspan Breffni since 1987.

“The last few years, the criticism has been that we haven’t turned up on the days that it mattered,” acknowledged Madden.

“The fact that it’s Monaghan probably means a bit more as well. At the end of the day, it’s just a win – but it’s a win that we probably needed and that this team has been looking for for the past few years.”

Next up are one of only two opponents they had beaten in Ulster recently, Armagh, who they knocked out of Ulster in both 2013 and 2016, with a win over Fermanagh also taking them to the last four three seasons ago.

Madden is determined to relish their progress, concluding: “We haven’t reached many Ulster semi-finals. Armagh are a quality side, going strong this year. We’ll enjoy this, there’s no point saying we won’t enjoy it – you have to enjoy it and then back to training”.

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