Sky Sports analyst Peter Canavan looks ahead to the weekend’s Gaelic football action, including the Ulster Championship meeting of Cavan and Monaghan, which is live on Sky Sports.
Many will be taking it for granted that Monaghan will be coming out on top, but anyone from that locality will know the extent of the rivalry between the two neighbouring counties. The amount of games that they’ve played in recent years in league and championship where there’s only been a score or a kick of a ball between them.
Monaghan should be the superior team – they’re in a better position going on National League form – but Malachy O’Rourke’s side will be without Darren Hughes and Jack McCarron. While Conor McManus and Rory Beggan have been fantastic in recent years and rightly get plaudits, Hughes has been the heartbeat and the engine of this team. His loss is massive from a Monaghan point of view, and it does give Cavan more than a fighting chance.
Last year, Monaghan topped their Super 8s group. It’s well documented that they’ve a smaller pick. I believe they’ll get back to that stage, and they’re more than capable of doing so. They’ve won Ulster Championships at U21 and senior, so they now have experience and good quality players. They’re still very much in the top six or seven teams in the country, and you’d expect them come out on top.
However, Cavan will see this as a real opportunity for a championship scalp. It’s at Breffni Park. They know how to perform well at Breffni Park. Their style of football has changed somewhat under Mickey Graham, they appear to be playing a more attacking brand of football. They’re going after teams much more. It might leave them vulnerable at the back, but the Breffni County appear to enjoy playing their football under Graham. He’s gotten a kick out of them.
Even though they were relegated from Division 1 of the National League, they put it up to a number of the top teams. They should have beaten Kerry, and they put it up to Dublin for long periods as well. I’d say that Cavan will be going into Saturday’s tie in a very upbeat manner, and will believe they are capable of causing an upset.
Can Armagh break their duck?
It’s probably fair to say that all the pressure is on Armagh when they face Down on Sunday. I got to see them a few times this year in the McKenna Cup, and I was impressed by their physicality. But they also now have a more potent attack.
Jamie Clarke and Rian O’Neill bring a completely different dynamic to the Armagh set-up going forward. I think that gives them a distinct edge this Sunday. It’s another derby, there’s a serious edge between Down and Armagh. Down managed to win their last championship game against the odds. This time around, I would expect Kieran McGeeney to get his first win in the Ulster Championship.
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