Right, that’s enough luxuriating over the result in Omagh. Another Ulster challenge awaits us this coming weekend, with Cavan heading to face us in Castlebar on Saturday evening. This match throws in under the lights at MacHale Park at 7pm that evening where Wicklow’s Anthony Nolan is the man with the whistle.
We haven’t seen that much of the Breffni County in recent years. They were, though, in Division One two years ago and we ended up in a bit of a dogfight against relegation with them that year. Going into the final round it was either ourselves or them for the drop and while we ensured our survival by beating Donegal that day their loss against Roscommon meant they were doomed anyway.
The reason we got ourselves into that pickle, though, was our unexpected loss to the Breffni men in Round 5. Cavan came to MacHale Park that day winless and had we beaten them we’d have pushed them closer to the drop while all but ensuring our own survival. We were, though, all over the shop that day and the visitors were full value for the two-point win they left with.
Along with Roscommon, Cavan bounced back last spring and secured promotion back to the top tier at the first attempt. They contested the Division Two final against the Rossies, losing out to them in Croke Park in a mad, high-scoring shootout decider.
Cavan’s championship run last summer was broadly similar to ours. A tough opening fixture in Ulster – against Donegal – meant an early exit from the provincial championship. Like us, they made it to Round 3 of the qualifiers where, on the same day we crashed and burned in Newbridge, they went out, losing to Tyrone in Enniskillen.
Mattie McGleenan stood down as their manager after their championship exit and he was replaced for 2019 by Mickey Graham. Unusually, the new man is currently double-jobbing, as he’s still also bainisteoir of Mullinalaghta. The Longford club shot to fame before Christmas when their giant-killing exploits saw them crowned Leinster club champions and they’re now readying themselves for their All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Kerry’s Dr Crokes on Saturday week.
The Cavan team Mickey Graham brings to Castlebar on Saturday evening is one that has yet to get off the mark in this League campaign. With two losses from two outings they find themselves rooted to the foot of the table, with just points difference keeping them ahead of Tyrone.
That record shouldn’t, though, mean we’ll have it easy on Saturday night. Both of Cavan’s two defeats were close ones, as they lost a niggly clash away to Galway by 0-13 to 0-11 and then made a decent fist of things against up-and-coming Kerry at Breffni Park last Sunday. Cavan led until two minutes from time in that game – they were ahead by four at the break – but Peter Keane’s young charges overhauled them late on to win by 0-16 to 0-13.
Cavan’s cause right now isn’t helped by the absence of their main main, Gearóid McKiernan, who’s not expected to be back from injury ahead of the start of this year’s championship. The big midfielder was the man who did most of the damage against us two years ago, including scoring the goal before half-time that brought them right back into it.
In the Swanlinbar man’s absence, Cavan will be looking to the likes of Dara McVeety and Ciaran Brady to provide leadership. Cian Mackey, a player who made his Cavan debut in 2005, is back in the fold with them this year too.
Given the two counties’ contrasting fortunes in the opening two rounds it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we’re the favourites heading into Saturday night. The 1/4 price being quoted on us by Paddy Power does, though, feel a tad parsimonious, given how unpredictable matches at this time of year can often be.
Speaking of predictions, let’s end this one with some soothsaying on your part – how do you reckon it’ll go for us on Saturday night?
How will we do against Cavan?
- Win (85%, 501 Votes)
- Lose (11%, 63 Votes)
- Draw (5%, 27 Votes)
Total Voters: 591