Underdogs Cavan stunned Monaghan in the Ulster SFC for the second year in succession as a late, late 55-metre free-kick from Raymond Galligan clinched a victory after extra-time in this thrilling local derby.
The latest instalment of this historic rivalry was as gripping as ever. Cavan were four up early on, fell seven down but rallied to force the extra 20 minutes, where Rory Beggan looked to have sent the game to a penalty shoot-out.
Up stepped Galligan, though, with a monster kick to secure the win for the Breffni men in what was an unforgettable rollercoaster of a match which ebbed and flowed and could have gone either way.
Monaghan were in front by one, 0-06 to 1-02, at the first water break after an eventful opening quarter.
Cavan opened the scoring when Gearoid McKiernan took a pass from Jason McLoughlin and slotted over under pressure and their lead was doubled when Stephen Smith found James Smith, who steadied and curled in well.
Monaghan replied through Micheál Bannigan but Cavan struck for a terrific goal when debutant Cormac O'Reilly did well to lay off to Oisin Pierson, who found the bottom corner of Rory Beggan's net with a terrific finish.
Cavan looked the better side at this stage but momentum was stalled as Pierson received treatment for an injury sustained in scoring the goal. When play resumed, Monaghan upped the ante and dominated the remaining half hour.
Cavan looked wide open at the back and but for Ray Galligan – and the woodwork – coming to the rescue on a few occasions, they could have been dead and buried at half-time.
As it was, they found themselves seven down as the Farney men moved through the gears. Galligan saved well from Stephen O’Hanlon but Conor McCarthy reacted quickest to punch over the rebound.
Then O’Hanlon, whose pace was causing huge problems, won a pass from Kieran Hughes and pointed and after a spectacular 45-metre effort from Conor McManus and a good score from the wing by Ryan McAnespie, Monaghan were level with 15 minutes played.
After a kickout was intercepted, Cavan were forced to foul and McManus, making it look easy, stroked over the resulting free from 44 metres.
Stephen Smith replied for Cavan but at the other end, O’Hanlon scorched through and laid off for an easy Bannigan score as Cavan starting sending out distress flares. Monaghan broke through for another goal chance, with Galligan again saving smartly, before an O’Hanlon effort caught the face of the crossbar as the Breffni men continued to live dangerously.
Kieran Duffy fisted the next before McCarthy got on the end of a brilliant move and saw his rocket of a shot strike the crossbar with Galligan beaten. McManus sent over a long-range point and although Stephen Smith registered at the other end, the goal Monaghan had been threatening arrived when Duffy played McManus in and he tucked away a classy finish.
When two Cavan players collided and allowed Fintan Kelly to stroke over an easy point, it seemed to sum up Cavan’s performance as Monaghan went in holding a seven-point lead.
The third quarter was nip and tuck. The excellent Oisin Kiernan got Cavan off to a good start but Monaghan were able to maintain a five-point lead for the most part.
Outstanding half-time sub Thomas Galligan and Kieran Duffy traded scores, as did Dessie Ward and Luke Fortune, and when championship debutant Fortune sent over his second from 45 metres and Gearoid McKiernan kicked another, suddenly Cavan sensed they could do it.
Martin Reilly made it a three-point game with a hooked point over the shoulder and Cavan kept coming, McKiernan, Niall Murray (attacking mark) and then Gerry Smith, with a huge score, making it six points in a row for Cavan and tying the match.
Monaghan had a chance but McManus, unusually, was off target with a free. In extra time, Cavan hogged possession but seemed shot-shy against the wind and Monaghan punished them with points from subs Colin Walshe and Andrew Woods.
Two down going into the second half of extra time, Cavan got the break they needed when Thomas Galligan rounded a defender and squared for Martin Reilly to palm home and make it 2-13 to 1-15.
Shane Carey, with a mark, and impressive sub Chris Conroy (45), nudged Mickey Graham’s men a point ahead but deep in injury time, Beggan stepped up to nail a free which seemed to ensure penalties.
However, there was time for one more play and Thomas Galligan gathered the kick-out and his cousin Raymond did the rest with a 55-metre free-kick to put the seal on an unforgettable win for a Cavan side who were relegated to Division 3 last week.
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-01f), Jason McLoughlin, Killian Clarke, Killian Brady, Gerard Smith (0-01), Ciaran Brady, Luke Fortune (0-02), James Smith (0-01), Padraig Faulkner, Martin Reilly (1-01), Gearoid McKiernan (0-03), Oisin Kiernan (0-01), Oisin Pierson (1-00), Stephen Smith (0-02), Cormac O’Reilly
Subs: Thomas Galligan (0-01) for J Smith (ht), Niall Murray (0-01m) for Pierson (41), Thomas Edward Donohoe for C O’Reilly (45), Chris Conroy (0-01, 45) for C Brady (45), Paul Graham for K Brady (60), Evan Doughty for Murray (70), Oisin Brady for S Smith (80), Cormac Timoney for McLoughlin (79)
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-01f), Kieran Duffy (0-02), Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie, Dessie Ward (0-01), Fintan Kelly (0-01), Karl O’Connell, Darren Hughes, Kieran Hughes, Ryan McAnespie (0-01), Micheál Bannigan (0-02), Drew Wylie, Stephen O’Hanlon (0-01), Conor McCarthy (0-01), Conor McManus (1-04, 2f)
Subs: Dermot Malone for D Wylie (29 mins), Shane Carey (0-1) for McCarthy (60), Niall Kearns for O’Hanlon (60), Christopher McGuinness for K Hughes (66), Colin Walshe (0-1) for Bannigan (70), Andrew Woods (0-01) for Kelly (78), McCarthy for O’Connell (86)