GAA Football

Cavan and Armagh 'start from scratch' again in replay says Breffni forward Cian Mackey

Cavan's Cian Mackey and Armagh's Ryan Kennedy battle it out in Sunday's Ulster Championship semi-final draw in Clones.
Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

BOTH sides will have learned plenty from Sunday’s stalemate but Cian Mackey says Armagh and Cavan will “start from scratch” in next weekend’s Ulster Championship semi-final replay at Clones.

Veteran Mackey was the Breffni hero after he was sprung off the bench to land three consecutive equalisers for his county - the third coming in the final period of extra-time in another intense, dramatic Championship tussle.

But there was also disappointment for the Castlerahan forward who missed a chance – arguably the easiest (but by no means easy) of his four attempts - at the death to win the game and send Cavan into their first provincial final since 2001.

“(I got) three good scores and there should have been another one at the end but, look, that happens, it just wasn’t meant to be, it just didn’t go over the bar,” said Mackey after Sunday’s thriller had ended in a 1-14 to 0-17 draw.

“But it was a great performance by the lads, we went down a man and conceded a goal but we brought it to extra-time and it was a ding-dong battle. It’s only in Ulster Championship football that you get these types of games seemingly and long may that continue.

“It’s the toughest province to be in and we love it, we love playing the likes of Armagh – a good, tough team. There’s never going to be too much between the teams in an Ulster semi-final.”

Two years ago, Cavan held Tyrone to a draw in an equally tense Ulster semi-final but lost the replay 5-18 to 2-17. Mackey scored 1-3 in that game and hopes that experience will help Cavan on Sunday.

“Hopefully we can right the wrongs that happened two years ago against Tyrone,” he said.

“We drew the first day and then came back and didn’t perform so we have to do a bit of work this week and make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes.”

There were tired bodies on both sides at the final whistle. In all, 42 players participated in a game that had swung Armagh’s way when Jarlath og Burns broke through the Cavan defence to score the only goal early in the second half. Burns was forced off in extra-time after he clashed heads with midfield partner Ben Crealey.

“There’ll be a lot of work getting the bodies right,” said Mackey.

“There’ll be a few niggles, it was a hard-hitting game and it’ll be a couple of days before everybody is able to fully function again. Then it’ll be wheeling into the weekend and getting ready to go.

“Look, it’ll be a lot of video work and talking through what we can improve but it’ll be a good week. We’re still in the Ulster Championship, so we’re happy.”

Armagh may feel that they left the game behind them after they opened up a four-point gap but Cavan, who lost Ciaran Brady to a red card, had the final chance to win it. Neither side landed a knockout blow so Mackey says they’ll start from square one again on Sunday.

“It’s from scratch for both teams,” he said.

“Both teams could have won it in normal time and both teams could have won it in extra-time, that’s the way it is. Both teams will take positives but also a lot of negatives too – when you don’t win there are a lot of negatives.

“But both teams will be coming with a clean slate and ready to go for a big game next Sunday.”

He added: “The lads were getting tired and fatigued in extra-time, it was up and down and it was a fast-paced match and the conditions started to get slippy, so it was a war of attrition.

“We ended up getting the equaliser but we didn’t get the last score to finish the job but we’re still there and we’re going to work hard and hopefully get over the line next week.”

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