Cavan blow Monaghan away in classic finish to Ulster SFC thriller

Ulster SFC preliminary round: Monaghan 1-12 Cavan 3-12

Cavan's Ciarán Brady celebrates their win over Monaghan at St. Tiernach's Park Clones.
Cavan's Ciarán Brady celebrates their win over Monaghan at St. Tiernach's Park Clones.

Many said this was far too early for the Ulster Championship but two late, late goals delivered incredible drama – and another astonishing Cavan victory over Monaghan.

After launching a comeback against their ancient rivals from deep downtown en route to their provincial triumph in 2020, the Breffnimen achieved another win that will be etched deep into the history books.

There were all sorts of traditional elements mixed in with the modern: the strong wind a major factor in what was a low-scoring contest for almost an hour - but the clinching goal, the game’s fourth, was delivered into an empty net with the absent goalkeeper pushing way up the pitch, in the 11th minute of added time.

That wandering custodian was, of course, Rory Beggan, fulfilling that old role of ‘the star flown back from America’.

Monaghan's Rory Beggan in action during the Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship between Monaghan and Cavan at St. Tiernach's Park Clones on 04-07-2024. Pic Philip Walsh
Monaghan's Rory Beggan at the start of the Ulster GAA Senior Football Championship between Monaghan and Cavan at St. Tiernach's Park Clones on 04-07-2024.

For much of this game it looked like the Scotstown man would be a major factor in a Monaghan victory – instead this may be remembered as ‘the Paddy Lynch match’.

The full-forward from the famous old Cavan club of Crosserlough top-scored with 1-9, capping off his display with that astonishing third goal for the Breffnimen in the 81st minute.

The truly decisive goal probably came five minutes earlier though, with a rapid Cavan counter-attack started by full-back Killian Brady and finished off emphatically by Gerard Smith rifling a shot to the net.

That was part of the 2-2 Cavan reeled off in added time, most of that caused by a lengthy delay following an awful collision that led to veteran Monaghan midfielder Darren Hughes being stretchered off and his Cavan counterpart James Smith hobbling off minutes later.

When the board was held up around the 70-minute mark to announce 10 added minutes there was only one point in it, Monaghan leading by 1-11 to 1-10.

Two goals had come in the preceding 10 minutes, the first a rocket from Cavan defender Padraig Faulkner, then a scrambled close range effort from home sub Micheal Hamill.

However, no one but no one could have foreseen the entertainment that was to ensue.

Beggan seemed set to see out the win, with a modern touch – kicking a point from play himself after receiving the ball back from a forward mark he had conjured up.

Yet Cavan turned back the clock in added time, becoming a force of nature themselves to knock out their neighbours.

Lynch snapped up his eighth score – but his first point from play – from a narrow angle. Then a chain of Cavan passes ended with Gerard Smith cutting in and blasting the ball past Beggan.

Lynch, whose placed ball kicking had been superb, landed a long range free, before the classy coup de grace. Ciaran Brady won a free, kicked it high to Lynch, and he swept it coolly, casually, and confidently into the distant net.

That final quarter added gallons of gloss to a game that had, in truth, been fairly dull, albeit one adversely affected by the weather conditions.

The strength of the wind was evident when Cavan’s first kick-out bent straight out of play without even reaching their 45m line.

Even before throw-in there had been a fairly flat feeling. Car parks were lying empty around Clones, the eventual crowd only just over 8,300.

The St Mary’s Kingscourt Brass and Reed Band did their best to create some atmosphere, belting out some Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Proud Mary’ – and they threw in some Beach Boys too with the sun shining, but the wind was what mattered more.

The hosts were deploying the elements, kicking the ball in long and shooting early as Cavan defended deep.

When a Conor McCarthy effort came back off the upright Kevin Loughran reacted quickest but Gary O’Rourke was alert too and parried his shot, with the loose ball falling to Jack McCarron, but his effort was kept out by full-back Killian Brady.

Cavan responded well, with Cian Madden finding Lynch on the left, who forced a near post save from Beggan, then confidently converted the subsequent ‘45′.

Scoring was clearly easier for Monaghan with the wind, but big efforts from David Garland and Karl O’Connell were cancelled out by that man Lynch, finishing frees won by the attacking efforts of centre half-back Niall Carolan.

Monaghan then took more charge of the second quarter, Beggan influential from placed ball and open play, but still only went in with a two-point lead, 0-7 to 0-5.

With the elements against him, Beggan saw a ‘45′ held up in the air and Cavan were looking much more lively going forward with the wind at their backs.

Their impressive centre half-back Niall Carolan supplied Oisin Brady for their side’s first point from play and two minutes later they added another, Gerard Smith finishing off a quick break.

The game was then delayed after that collision between Hughes and James Smith, but when it resumed little seemed to have changed.

Monaghan seemed to be dealing with the wind, with Beggan the ‘quarter-back’ directing operations, including supplying sub Sean Jones for a mark, to lead 0-10 to 0-8.

At last Cavan came properly to life, corner-back Cian Reilly drilling a pass to Faulkner, who span his man and sent an even harder shot to the net.

Suddenly the game turned wild, Cavan’s other corner-back, Brian O’Connell breaking with only Beggan to beat before taking his point, and Lynch almost sending substitute Tiernan Madden clear moments later, before corner-forward Oisin Brady shot wide of an open goal from halfway.

Normality seemed to have returned when a McCarthy shot was only half-saved and Hamill bundled the ball in to put Monaghan back in front, and Beggan pointed for 1-12 to 1-10.

Then cue the madness – including Beggan missing a fairly straightforward free before Smith’s goal.

Cavan’s reward is a home tie against Tyrone and if they can bottle the spirit of the closing quarter they’ll believe themselves as good as Breffni Blues of old.

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, 0-1 ‘45′, 0-1 free); R Wylie, K Duffy (capt.), R O’Toole; K O’Connell (0-1), K Lavelle, C McCarthy; G Mohan, D Hughes; C McNulty, K Loughran, J Irwin; D Garland (0-1), J McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free), C McManus (0-3, 0-2 frees).

Substitutes: M Hamill (1-0) for Irwin (h-t); J Wilson (0-1) for Hughes (49, inj.); S Jones (0-1 mark) for Garland (53); M Bannigan for McCarron (64); S Mooney for McNulty (78).

Cavan: G O’Rourke; C Reilly, K Brady, B O’Connell (0-1); P Faulkner (joint-capt.) (1-0), N Carolan, Conor Brady; J Smith, O Kiernan (Denn); Ciaran Brady (joint-capt.), G Smith (1-1), O Kiernan (Castlerahan); C Madden, P Lynch (1-9, 0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘45′, O Brady (0-1).

Substitutes: L Fortune for J Smith (51, inj.); T Madden for Kiernan (Denn) (54); C O’Reilly for Madden (65); R Donohoe for O Brady (78).

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).

Attendance: 8,324.