By Alan Gunn
A dramatic Ciara McAnespie goal saw Monaghan complete an astonishing comeback to preserve their senior status for 2022 and condemn neighbours Cavan to a relegation play-off after this remarkable TG4 All-Ireland SFC group game at Kingspan Breffni.
Cavan looked to be safe when they led by five points going into the closing stages but got caught by a superb rally from Monaghan and must now regroup for a relegation semi-final against Tyrone.
Both sides were out of contention for a quarter-final place in the TG4 All-Ireland SFC title race prior to this clash but with so much at stake it was still a rip-roaring contest from the outset.
Cavan led at the first water break by double scores, 0-06 to 0-03, with Lauren McVeety landing two fine points while Aisling Gilsenan converted three frees.
Cavan were dealt a blow with Aisling Sheridan sin-binned after 19 minutes and six minutes later full-back Shauna Lynch followed her. However, Monaghan were wasteful in front of goal despite the numerical advantage and only had added a Laura McEnaney point to show for their efforts.
Sheridan made an immediate impact when she returned with a point while Gilsenan also rattled the crossbar as Cavan stretched their lead at the break to five points, 0-09 to 0-04.
A brace from the excellent McEnaney and one from Ellen McCarron reduced the deficit to three before Cora Courtney was sin-binned 12 minutes into the second half. McCarron reduced the deficit further before a fine score from Gilsenan left the Breffni side three clear at the second water break.
McCarron cut the gap further but McVeety and the outstanding Gilsenan, who brought her tally to eight points, opened up a five-point lead before Monaghan came with their dramatic finish.
A point from McEnaney and then two super efforts from Lauren Garland got them within striking distance before Monaghan overturned a short kick-out and McAnespie rounded the 'keeper to fire home. Substitute Jodie McQuillan wrapped it up with a further point.
The victory makes sure Monaghan will be remaining in senior football for a remarkable 30th successive year while Cavan now must lift themselves for a relegation clash with Tyrone.
Monaghan: E Corrigan; R McGuigan, N Fahy, A McAnespie; J Duffy, R Courtney, E Traynor; C Courtney (0-01), M Atkinson; L McEnaney (0-04), E McCarron (0-04, 3fs), L Garland (0-02); C Treanor, C McAnespie (1-01), L Jones.
Subs: M Monaghan for McGuigan (18), S Coyle for Traynor (ht), J McQuillan (0-01) for Treanor (58), N Brennan for Jones (64).
Cavan: E Walsh; R Doonan, S Lynch, M Smith; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, M Sheridan; C Dolan, N Byrd; A Kiernan, A Sheridan (0-01) , L McVeety (0-03); N Keenaghan (0-01), G Sheridan (0-01), A Gilsenan (0-08, 6fs).
Subs: C Finnegan for Kiernan (40), E Halton for Finnegan (56).
Ref: G Finnegan (Down).