Cavan’s shortcomings cruelly exposed under Armagh’s stamp of authority

Five undefeated outings for Armagh in Division Two ensure the side’s passport is stamped for next season

National Football League Division Two: Armagh 2-21 Cavan 0-12

Armagh have certainly not overstayed their welcome in Division Two of the Allianz Football League.

Five undefeated outings have ensured that their passport is now stamped for next season and no one is more delighted than manager Kieran McGeeney.

He watched his side overwhelm Cavan in their final league outing on Saturday night and could certainly be forgiven if he should take a helping of comfort for the upcoming Ulster Championship.

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On the evidence of Saturday night’s display, Armagh’s stock could be said to have been elevated, but the canny McGeeney is taking nothing for granted going forward.

“The Championship is a different ball game, but we like to think that we have atoned for our demotion from Division One last year. You want to be pitting yourself against the best – that’s what can help any side become better. Obviously we are looking forward to the Ulster Championship and we know just how difficult that will be,” stresses McGeeney.

His side certainly lost no time in laying down a marker on Saturday night as Cavan’s shortcomings were cruelly exposed as early as the first quarter.

McGeeney’s side stamped their authority on the contest from the outset and underlined their commitment and hunger. For Cavan this was a setback, and they are now limited to mounting a challenge to finish in third position in the Division Two table.

Armagh dominated the first half in launching a series of attacks that kept the Cavan defence under considerable pressure. Indeed, the home side’s hunger and endeavours were almost overpowering, as Cavan were restricted to occasional raids that ultimately yielded little.

In contrast, Armagh carved out scoring opportunities almost at will. Although Cavan remained on their shoulder for the first 15 minutes of the contest, it soon became all too clear that Armagh were very much in the driving seat.

After Ben Crealey and Andrew Murnin had whipped over an early brace of points for the home side, Cavan offered a rapid response with Ryan O’Neill and Ciaran Madden hitting the target.

But this was as good as it got for the visitors. With Armagh sweeping forward when in possession and stretching the Cavan defence to the limit, it was no surprise when the home side asserted their authority in no uncertain manner.

With Greg McCabe, Rory Grugan, Andrew Murnin and Conor Turbitt showing the way, the home team laid siege to their visitors’ citadel.

Suddenly the scores began to flow more freely, with Grugan and Turbitt hitting the target and keeping the Cavan rearguard at full stretch in the process.

It was in the 28th minute that Armagh tightened their grip on proceedings in emphatic fashion.

Defender Peter McGrane, who has been impressive since his introduction to the side only recently, swept forward and took a precise pass in his stride before gliding the ball into the Cavan net.

As if to add insult to injury, Cavan were forced to absorb a further hammer blow immediately before half-time. Defender Cillian Brady upended an Armagh player and was served with a black card, while his side also found themselves in even deeper trouble when referee Liam Devenney awarded the home team a penalty which Conor Turbitt drilled into the net.

It was this score that cemented Armagh’s comfortable 2-12 to 0-4 interval lead.

There was to be no let up for Cavan after the break either. The home side dispatched an array of substitutes into the action, but for Cavan the pressure remained incessant. When they did manage to break forward, they were invariably thwarted by Armagh’s clever defending.

When Oisin Conaty stepped into the picture in the third quarter, he quickly fired over two points before Rian O’Neill entered the fray.

He too was quickly on the target as Armagh continued to keep their opponents pegged back within their own half. Indeed, Cavan found it difficult to cross the half-way line, such was Armagh’s authority and composure.

Ross McQuillan quickly hit the target as he entered the fray from the attack, but by then Armagh were well clear of their beleaguered opponents on a night when their Division One place was secured for next year.

Armagh: B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, P McGrane (1-0); G McCabe (0-2), A Forker, J McElroy; B McCambridge, B Crealey (0-1); S Campbell (0-1), R Grugan (0-5, four frees), C Mackin; C Turbitt (1-4, one pen), A Murnin (0-2), O Conaty (0-4). Subs: T Kelly for McCabe (half-time), R McQuillan for Burns (half-time), A Nugent for Turbitt (half-time), R O’Neill (0-1) for Murnin (46), O O’Neill (0-1) for Campbell (60), C Mackin for Crealey (64).

Cavan: G O’Rourke, C Reilly, C Brady, O Kiernan; D McVeety (0-2), N Carolan, B O’Connell; K Clarke, J Smith; C Brady, C Madden, G Smith; R O’Neill (0-3), P Lynch (0-5, three frees), R Donohoe (0-2). Subs: Oisin Brady for Madden (half-time), Conor Brady for Carolan (half-time), Tristan Noaack Hofmann for J Smith (half-time), O Kiernan for Cillian Brady (46), L Fortune for Reilly (56).

Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)