Tipperary turnaround sends Cavan crashing out
All-Ireland SFC Qualifying round 2B: Cavan 0-18 Tipperary 2-15
MUCH has changed since the previous Championship clash of Cavan and Tipperary, which was in the 1935 All-Ireland semi-final, but certain truths remain.
It's a game of two halves, dominating the midfield battle goes a long way towards winning the war, and strength in depth is important.
Both bosses pointed to the visitors ruling the centre-field exchanges after the teams turned around, which helped turn this tie around from an apparently comfortable home win to another victory on their travels by Tipp.
Liam Kearns's side had already wiped out their six-point half-time deficit, making the game level at 13 points apiece, when some of their quality off the bench began to exert great influence, as impressive half-time substitute Philip Austin won a penalty which was converted by Conor Sweeney in the 55th minute.
Seven minutes later their swashbuckling centre half-back Robbie Kiely finished high to the net after Austin and Sweeney combined again to create the opening for him.
Then Allstar full-forward Michael Quinlivan, back unexpectedly early from the ankle injury that forced him off in the Munster semi-final, drifted past several defenders for a superb score.
That made for an astonishing 12-point swing since the interval and although Cavan did show some spirit to make it a two-point game in injury time they never truly looked like forcing extra time or snatching a famous victory.
Kiely admitted with a laugh afterwards that his goal was "a bit of a mis-kick" and that Quinlivan's involvement was "a roll of the dice. He could have lasted five minutes and been off again, but lucky enough he got into the game and it was a gamble that nicely paid off."
Yet apart from questioning a couple of frees awarded to Tipperary early in the second half, Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan wasn't complaining about ill-luck costing them this game:
"A game is two halves – first half, we played probably the best football we've played all year, but Gaelic football is a game of two halves and we didn't step up in the second half.
"We lost control of midfield, we weren't winning breaking balls, and ultimately them coming through the centre at us, their handling and movement were very, very good."
Cavan lacked that cutting edge, apart from the evergreen Cian Mackey running from deep, and they struggled to score for much of the second period, and not from play until the 67th minute.
It had all seemed so different before the break. Although Tipperary started well with the first two scores, once again Cavan rotated their inside forwards, a policy which served to stretch the opposing defence.
Despite losing Ciaran Brady early, after he collected a booking then an injury, his replacement Niall McDermott initially seemed to boost the hosts, able to float between the 'square' and the '40' – but he was later replaced himself, having not scored from play.
Kiely sought to inspire the visitors with interceptions and forays forward, but Cavan's tackling was disciplined, getting bodies around their opponents without fouling.
Tipperary's cause was not helped by some wayward shooting, including two poor efforts from wing-back Bill Maher sandwiching another off-target from midfielder Liam Casey.
Skipper Brian Fox sneaked up from his sweeping duties to get a sight of the nets but struck his shot against the left upright.
Cavan's centre-fielders Gearoid McKiernan and 'Mossy' Corr provided four points from play between them, young Caoimhin O'Reilly also kicked two on his SFC debut, and all appeared great for the hosts as they led by 12 points to six at the break.
Kearns acknowledged: "We were in trouble in a number of areas in the first half and it didn't go according to the game-plan, but we sorted out a few things at half-time, made a couple of changes. Emmet Moloney made a difference going into our full-back line and the big thing was that Liam Casey got to grips with Gearoid McKiernan at midfield.
"Philip Austin also started to run at them and they didn't seem to be able to handle Philip all through the second half. That's his first game in over four months so he really produced for us."
In contrast, McGleenan bemoaned his side's start to the second half: "We went from the first half, playing fabulous football and doing everything right, then we failed to win a kick-out in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and that was extremely costly."
Tipp quickly reduced their deficit to two points, and although a Mackey run led to a McDermott free, the visitors were able to send on their Allstar turn Quinlivan with a third of the game remaining, Kearns commenting: "It was great to get him on the field, it gave the boys a lift at the right time."
Indeed after his introduction Tipp reeled off another 1-3, capped off by the penalty goal, and then added Kiely's goal and Quinlivan's point, to put them 2-14 to 0-14 ahead.
Having sent on some younger players, Cavan introduced Seanie Johnston around the hour mark, and he contributed a point and converted a free - and when corner-back Padraig Faulkner pulled the Breffnimen onto 18 points there was a glimmer of hope of an outrageous escape act.
Instead, yet another Tipperary sub, Diarmuid Foley, flick-kicked a point from a clever Sweeney hand-pass and left Cavan looking towards next year while the Premier County await the round 3B draw.
Typically, despite his obvious disappointment, McGleenan accentuated the positives as Cavan contemplate the long wait until next year's Division Two campaign:
"I can't fault them. This is my first year in and we have a lot to work on in terms of how I want them to play football. I thought that was a great attacking game, but we were caught cold.
"We have young lads in there, Caoimhin O'Reilly, Ryan Connolly, and Thomas Galligan, who are just out of under-21, so I'd have great belief going forward here."
He also pointed to how good their conquerors can be, having reached the All-Ireland last four again last year, bridging that 81-year gap: "It's been a huge learning curve for me and for us – but Tipperary weren't All-Ireland semi-finalists by chance and we have to learn from this game."
The lessons may be old ones – but they're as hard to take for Cavan as they ever were, especially as this time around they lost to Tipperary.
Cavan: R Galligan; P Faulkner (0-1), K Clarke (capt.), J McLoughlin; J McEnroe, N Murray, C Moynagh (0-1); G McKiernan (0-3, 0-1 free), T Corr (0-2); C Mackey (0-1), M Reilly (0-2), C Brady; C O'Reilly (0-2), L Buchanan, D McVeety (0-1). Substitutes: N McDermott (0-2 frees) for Brady (12); R Connolly for Buchanan (h-t); T Galligan (0-1) for Corr (48); J Dillon for McDermott (57); S Johnston (0-2, 0-1 free) for O'Reilly (60); N Clerkin for McVeety (black card, 66).
Yellow cards: Brady (6); McEnroe (40).
Black card: McVeety (65, replaced by Clerkin)
Tipperary: C Kenrick; C O'Shaughnessy, A Campbell, E Moloney; B Maher, R Kiely (1-1), J Feehan; L Casey, G Hannigan; J Keane, L Boland, B Fox (capt.) (0-1); C Sweeney (1-5, 0-5 frees, 1-0 pen), K O'Halloran (0-2, 0-1 free), J Kennedy (0-3, 0-2 frees). Substitutes: D Foley (0-1) for Boland (23); P Austin (0-1) for O'Shaughnessy (h-t); M Quinlivan (0-1) for Hannigan (48); L McGrath for O'Halloran (68); K Bergin for Maher (73).
Yellow cards: Kennedy (49); Kiely (57); Sweeney (57); McGrath (68).
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).