Unruly scenes on and off the field of play marred Mullahoran’s return to Ulster Club Senior Football Championship action last Sunday.
In a game littered with yellow cards and a slew of stoppages for off-the-ball shenanigans, the Longford-border side had four-times World Handball Champion Paul Brady red carded in the 31st minute before the threat of violence at the half-time break involving spectators soured matters further at Kingspan Breffni Park.
For once the 14-man phenomenon failed to materialise to any degree as the Dreadnoughts went out of the competition in the face of a classy and excellently-drilled Tyrone team.
Mullahoran lost their orchestrator-in-chief Brady to a straight red card just nine minutes after he was introduced to the fray and were left to play a game of catch-up thereafter that was simply way beyond their capabilities.
The first half was a tense, bitty affair, constantly simmering and often coming to the boil with Brady’s red card, a handful of yellow cards and a mountain of stoppages littering proceedings.
The second half was a timid, tepid production in comparison with both teams - after a prolonged interval break to cool down - doubtless conscious of their responsibilities.
Unfortunately, the unruly scenes in the first half weren’t confined to the playing field. Sadly, Gardai had to be called when violence threatened to break out in the front row of the seated stand just after the half-time whistle was sounded.
The upset of the on-field proceedings last Sunday is that Cavan football is still waiting to break its duck in the Ulster Club SFC.
In truth, the Tyrone champions were in the comfort zone last Sunday for large tracts of the match, particularly after the half-time break when they outscored their hosts by 2-9 to 0-4 in a whirlwind of attacking play.
Mullahoran scored the first and last points of the game but in between times they were greatly outclassed by their opponents who now go on to meet Ballinderry (Derry) in the quarter-final in two weeks time.
The aforementioned Paul Brady received a straight red card after an off-the-ball incident which saw Tyrone man Stefan Tierney on the ground.
Most of the unpleasantness was concentrated in the first half at the end of which the visitors led by 2-6 to 1-3.
Although playing into the face of a stiffening breeze, Damien McDermott’s 3rd minute goal put the visitors into the box seat. Mullahoran’s Fergal Brady’s goal (16 mins) cut Errigal Ciaran’s lead to two points only for Peter Harte to cut through the heart of the Mullahoran defence to score a goal less than 90 seconds later.
In what was a particularly fractious opening moiety, the writing was on the wall after Mullahoran failed to reap a sufficient dividend from having the breeze at their backs.
But it was the dismissal of Brady in the 31st minute that had the most devastating effect on the Cavan champions bid to upset the odds.
When the dust had settled, Mullahoran’s top scorer Enda O’Reilly converted a free in the 39th minute to cut Errigal Ciaran’s lead to 1-5 to 2-7.
However the winners countered with interest, rifling over three quick-fire points before Brian Horisk fired home a goal in the 50th minute.
Horisk’s major propelled the O’Neill county crew into an unassailable 3-10 to 1-5 lead as Mullahoran heads dropped noticeably.
It was one-way traffic in the second half as the lights remained stuck on green for the white and blue clad visitors.
With Stefan Tierney profiting in the middle third as the extra-man, all the Errigal Ciaran forwards managed to get on the scoresheet.
In contrast, only Fergal Brady managed to score from play for Mullahoran and was only one of three Mullahoran players to find the target.
Mullahoran’s misery was completed when Thomas Canavan got another goal for the visitors from point blank range after Paul Quinn’s effort was blocked on the goal-line.
Ironically, Mullahoran had the last say when Enda O’Reilly tapped over a free to close the scoring on a game in which Mullahoran opened the scoring but lost their way badly thereafter.
MULLAHORAN: E Brady; S Smith, K Brady, J Reilly; D Sheridan (0-1), Patrick Brady, M Brady; C Sheils, PP Galligan; T Nannery, Enda O’Reilly (0-4, all frees), R Lynch; Philip Brady, Eddie O’Reilly (0-2, both frees), F Brady (1-0).
Subs:- N Smith for J Reilly (22 mins); Paul Brady for T Nannery (22 mins); T Nannery for PP Galligan (46 mins); J Donohoe for F Brady (51 mins).
ERRIGAL CIARAN: J Devine: A McCrory, M McRory, C Quinn; M McCann, P Harte (1-0), D Harte (0-2); Cormac McGinley, E McGinley (0-1); Ciaran McGinley, T Canavan (1-2), S Tierney (0-2); D McDermott (1-2, both frees), B Horisk (1-1), R McRory (0-3).
Subs:- D Canavan (0-2) for D McDermott (45 mins); S Hackett for Cormac McGinley (50 mins); P Quinn for D Harte (53 mins); N McGarvey for Ciaran McGinley (55 mins).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).