They’ll have to do it all again next week but for now, we can revel in yet another cracking contest in the Ulster Football Championship.
Cavan and Armagh played out a thrilling 1-14 to 0-17 draw at Clones on Sunday and the two sides will meet again this weekend to determine who will face either Donegal or Tyrone in this year’s Ulster final.
While the quality may not have always been of the highest standard (the weather no doubt played a role in this), sometimes quality comes second when you have the kind of tension that fans had to endure at St Tiernach’s Park.
Armagh looked to have had the game won with 20 minutes remaining as they led by four points thanks to an excellent goal from Jarly Og Burns. However, Cavan came roaring back into the game to force extra-time.
Both sides struggled throughout extra-time registering just a single score each as tiredness took its toll on the body.
In the end, neither team deserved to lose this one and we should all be thankful that we get to see these players take to the field once again on Sunday.
Over the course of 90 minutes, one man stood taller than everyone in this bruising Ulster-semi-final and he only managed to play around 40 minutes. Cian Mackey.
The old saying goes that form is temporary, class is permanent but they should add that experience is everything. When Cavan needed an experienced head to come in and shoulder the pressure in those clutch moments. Mackey, not once, not twice but three times rescued Cavan and he is our focus on this week’s edition of ‘Spotlight’.
Not long after Burns netted to put Armagh into the ascendency, Mickey Graham sprung his most experienced campaigner from the bench for the game’s final 20 minutes. Mackey is in his 15th season with the Cavan senior footballers having made his debut as a minor back in 2005 and while the Castlerahan man may not have a full 70 in him anymore, there’s not much better in Ulster when it comes to closing the show and he proved that on Sunday.
His first score came on the 65th minute. Up until then Cavan looked done for having lost Ciaran Brady to a straight red card, however, a score from Dara McVeety (who was excellent throughout) brought them to within one. Cavan searched for the equaliser but Armagh had retreated into a defensive shell and done well to keep Cavan away from the goal.
If the Breffni men were to score it would have to be from distance. Up stepped Mr Mackey who finds a yard of space receives the pass and cuts inside to make an angle for himself.
Mackey gets his shot off just as the Armagh defence swarms in. It’s a classic clutch score where you knew it was going over as soon as it left his foot.
In years gone by this would have spelt the end for Armagh who have notoriously struggled to close games. However, this side seems different, they are improving week on week and answered Cian Mackey’s rallying cry with an instant attack of their own.
It could well have been goal and game over for Cavan but Jamie Clarke had to settle for a free-kick to nudge the Orchard County in front once more.
Again, up stepped Mr Mackey to force extra-time.
The second equalising score was a move created by and finished by the Cavan substitutes bench. First, it was Stephen Murray who turned defence into attack for Cavan before off-loading to Christopher Conroy who had come out from full-forward.
Conroy showed great vision and speed of thought to off-load quickly to the onrushing Mackey who identified the space in front of him and drove into it to kick a beautiful point and force the game to extra-time.
Tiredness took over in extra-time as both teams struggled for scores. The first point didn’t come until the second period and it was a classic point from Stefan Campbell who had re-entered the fray and showed the Cavan defence a clean pair of heels to fist Armagh in front once again.
However, for the third time in this absolutely pulsating game, substitute, Cian Mackey pulled it out of the bag for Cavan when it really mattered.
Both teams are desperate. Cavan want back into the game while Armagh want to cling on for the victory. The end result sees everyone follow the ball, but not Mackey.
The Castlerahan man has peeled off into space totally unchecked. He calls for the ball, receives the pass and let’s fly!
It sails over the bar to level the game up and ensure that both sides will go to battle once again next Sunday.
Three pressure kicks at key moments of the game and each one of them absolutely nailed by Cian Mackey. Pressure! What pressure?
Form is temporary, class is permanent… but experience is everything.