FROM ODHRÁN CRUMLEY
ULSTER SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER FINAL
CAVAN VS MONAGHAN
SUNDAY, 2PM, BREFFNI PARK
REFEREE: PADDY NEILAN (ROSCOMMON)
They say that the formbook goes out the window when two rivals meet. The saying has never been truer than the case of Cavan versus Monaghan. The Farney men have shaded the last two meetings by the narrowest of margins while Cavan shaded the two fixtures before that contest by two single points.
Malachy O’Rourke’s side have had the benefit of having already contested a championship game in the shape of their nine point Preliminary Round victory over Fermanagh on May 20th. Cavan have had no competitive fixtures since April 2nd in their final league game a loss away to Roscommon.
Both sides had fairly contrasting league campaigns while both playing Division One football. Cavan finished bottom of the pile and were subsequently relegated to Division Two for 2018. Monaghan finished in fourth place missing out on a league final appearance on score difference; interestingly they were tied with the eventual winners in Kerry.
Cavan manager will make his Ulster Championship debut as a manager on Sunday and will most likely have to plan without the influential Rory Dunne and Dara McVeety. Malachy O’Rourke however has been boosted by the return of Darren Hughes to the match day panel and it is expected that he may play some part on Sunday.
Throughout the league both sides opted to play a defensive system and it is highly unlikely that either side will venture away from this game plan come Sunday. Both sides played out a monotonous seven a piece draw in the league. Expect scores to at a premium and if either side can hit the back of the net, the major will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the match. Monaghan have averaged a goal a game over the course of their last nine games while although Cavan are not known for their goal scoring ability they registered goals in each of their final four games.
Cavan conceded a total 2-101 throughout the league scoring 4-72 while the Farney men conceded 7-79 and scored 5-82. Impressively they had thirteen different scorers last time out.
The Breffni Blues struggled to get their best fifteen on the field over the course of the league due to injury but with McKiernan now flying fit and Mackey returning to the fray they will be a different animal. The return of the latter could be a deciding factor as over the course of last year’s championship everything went through Mackey’s hands.
If Cavan can suffocate Monaghan’s inside line they will give themselves a real chance of winning. With chances sure to be at a premium both sides will need to take the majority of their opportunities, with free taking sure to top the list. For the first time in a few years Cavan expects. A sold out Breffni will intensify the heat, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see both sides lining up for a replay in Clones next weekend.
VERDICT: CAVAN, JUST!