Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke says his side will be taking nothing for granted when they face Down at the Athletic Grounds on 24 June for a place in the Ulster final.
Monaghan saw off the Mourne Men 2-22 to 0-9 in Clones in last year’s Ulster quarter-finals, but O’Rourke was in Newry recently to see Down edge out fierce rivals Armagh by a point to advance to the last four and he was impressed by what he saw.
“I was up at the game last week and Down were very impressive. The end of the League they finished very well and their form against a fancied Armagh team was very good,” he said.
“They have a lot of good, sharp forwards. I was very impressed with them. I felt we were okay today, we played well at times, but we still have a lot of improving to do and we’ll need it for the next day.”
Monaghan needed a second-half strike by Conor McManus to see off Cavan 1-15 to 0-15, and set up a meeting with the Mourne Men.
“There’s no doubt the goal gave us a wee bit of breathing space,” said O’Rourke, who led the Farney County to the Ulster semi-finals in each of his five years in charge, winning the Anglo-Celt in 2013 and 2015.
“We felt in the first half we were in a bit of control, we just gave away a few frees that gave Cavan a few handy scores. We were disappointed to give them two scores at the end of the half from our mistakes that gave them a wee boost going in.
“It was just a matter of keeping the heads and knowing the wind would be a help. It still doesn’t kick the ball over the bar and I thought we rushed things a wee bit, but as the half wore on we got the scores.”
McManus was played through to score the game’s only goal on 59 minutes, after Cavan had led for most of the game.
But Cavan almost snatched a draw with the last kick of the match, only for Ryan Connolly’s stoppage time shot to hit the post.
Cavan will now play in Round 1B of the All-Ireland qualifiers on 25 June, where they’ll be away to the losers of Offaly and Westmeath.
Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan, said: “Football was the real winner here today. It came down to the kick of a ball, Mansy’s goal was fantastic but I thought the character of our team was fantastic,” he said.
“Both teams went at it, welcome to Ulster Championship football, I loved every minute of it. The important thing is that this is not the end for Cavan, we go into the qualifiers now and they can go as far as they want.
“The key is not to put the head down. We are a young team. We have a lot to learn yet, we made three or four fundamental errors out there and it could have been better, especially with the breeze.
“But Monaghan are the benchmark as far as I’m concerned. They’ve been around this last four or five years and they know how to win these tight games.
“I think the summer will be fabulous for us and the more I learn about these guys the better it will be.”
Cavan: R Galligan; P Faulkner, K Clarke, N Murray; J McEnroe (0-01), C Moynagh (0-01), G Smith; L Buchanan (0-01), G McKiernan (0-01); C Mackey (0-03), C Madden, M Reilly (0-01,f); N Clerkin, N McDermott (0-03, 3f), S Johnston (0-04, 4f).
Subs: C Brady for Madden (25), D McVeety for Buchanan (h-t), R Connolly for McDermott (53), J Dillon for Clerkin (63), J McLoughlin for McEnroe (64), C O’Reillyf or Murray (73)
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-03, 2 ’45, 1f); F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe (0-01), V Corey, N McAdam; K Hughes, K O’Connell; G Doogan, K Duffy, O Duffy (0-04); D Malone, J McCarron (0-01), C McManus (1-04, 0-2f).
Subs: R McAnespie for Doogan (h-t), C McCarthy (0-02) for Malone (47), D Ward for K Duffy (55), D Mone for D Wylie (67), D Hughes for McCarron (68), S Carey for O Duffy (73, BC)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).