Ulster Football Championship: Cavan 1-15 1-11 Armagh

Martin Dunne starred in Cavan's Breffni Park

Martin Dunne's nine points helped Cavan surprise a poor Armagh side in the Ulster Football Championship opener.

Cavan led 0-3 to 0-1 early on and while Armagh then levelled, Cian Mackey's superb goal helped the Breffni side take a 1-6 to 0-4 lead by the break.

Jamie Clarke had the ball in the Cavan net but an Armagh free had already been awarded but Ethan Rafferty's deflected goal then left only a point in it.

But Cavan regrouped to clinch a thoroughly deserved victory at Breffni.

Immediately after the game, Paul Grimley admitted to his "confusion" over Clarke's effort being ruled out after referee Maurice Deegan had blown his whistle a fraction of a second before the Crossmaglen star hammered to the net.

Grimley pointed out that a similar incident in the earlier minor match at Breffni Park had led to the goal being awarded.

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Martin McHugh's view on Cavan's victory over Armagh

But even the Armagh manager was honest enough to admit that Cavan had been the better side throughout the 70 minutes.

Tony Kernan kicked Armagh into a second-minute lead but Cavan responded with three unanswered points - including Dunne's second score as he lobbed inches over the bar when he may have trying to chip keeper Philip McEvoy.

Granted, Cavan were probably lucky to be still playing with the full complement at that stage after late inclusion Killian Brady had been booked for a high tackle on Tony Kernan.

Armagh, briefly, looked to be finally getting going after Tony Kernan and Caolan Rafferty hit fine points from distance to level but it proved a false dawn as Mackey ran 55 metres unchallenged to hammer in a goal.

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Paul Grimley

Mackey ran on to a long pass after Clarke had lost the ball in the Cavan full-back line and with his marker Ciaran McKeever marked absent, the Cavan man outpaced Tony Kernan to run straight through the Armagh defence and plant the ball to the net.

By that stage, Grimley had already introduced Ethan Rafferty for late inclusion Finian Moriarty, who had replaced hamstrung Brendan Donaghy before the start.

But Moriarty wasn't the only Armagh defender who was struggling with Eugene Keating totally having the measure of Declan McKenna both in the air and on the ground.

Points from the impressive Niall McDermott and Dunne late in the half increased Cavan's lead to five by the interval.

Armagh needed a quick response after the break but the match looked over after Cavan had outscored the Orchard men 0-3 to 0-1 in the six minutes following the restart.

But at seven points down, Armagh then outscored the Breffnimen 1-4 to 0-1 over the next 17 minutes to leave the minimum between the teams.

The Orchard revival was probably spurred by the game's main moment of controversy as Clarke fired to the net only for play called back for a jersey pull on the Crossmaglen man.

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Post match intvs

Stefan Forker kicked the free for a point and with the Armagh dander finally up and Clarke getting some space in attack, Mark Shields almost notched a goal a minute later as his full-stretch shot flew over for another score.

Armagh hit two of the next three scores to cut Cavan's lead to four before Philip McEvoy produced a brilliant save to keep the Orchard men in the game as he blocked Keating's point-blank goal chance.

The stop looked like the potential turning point seconds later as Cavan's lead was reduced to only one when Ethan Rafferty's deflected shot flew past Conor Gilsenan after some dithering in the Breffni defence.

At that stage with still 12 minutes plus injury-time remaining, you would have backed Armagh to go on and complete a comeback victory.

But to their credit, the young Cavan players were having none of it.

Keating responded to his miss a couple of minutes earlier by firing a steadying point and another superb Dunne finish moments later left three between the teams again.

Further superb scores from Dunne and the impressive James McEnroe had Cavan coasting to victory again by the 67th minute.

After Cavan captain David Givney's dismissal for a second yellow card, Armagh reduced the Cavan lead to a kick of the ball in the final minute but there was to be no frantic finish as Dunne's ninth point made the game safe.

SUNDAY'S FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

Leinster SFC

Westmeath 3-15 1-10 Carlow

Connacht SFC

Galway 0-11 4-16 Mayo

Ulster SFC

Cavan 1-15 1-11 Armagh

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