By Niall Gartland
THE outright favourites for the Tailteann Cup, Cavan, are hoping to make it two-from-two when they travel to Ruislip to take on London on Saturday.
The Breffni County claimed a deserved 2-20 to 1-14 victory over Laois in their opening group stage encounter at the weekend, albeit their opposition manager Billy Sheehan was lamented a controversial penalty decision in the 26th minute, subsequently converted by Paddy Lynch.
That particular score propelled Mickey Graham’s side into a 1-6 to 1-5 lead and they never looked back with 11 men on the scoresheet by the time the final whistle was blown by referee Anthony Nolan at Kingspan Breffni.
It was important for Cavan to get back on the wagon after an uncharacteristically flat performance against Armagh in Ulster, but it was by no means the perfect performance.
Their porousness at the back was evident as Laois, who have had a poor season, missing out on promotion from Division Four, totted up a fairly respectable 1-14.
The lack of cover at the back was particularly evident in the first-half, and it didn’t help matters that their work-rate further up the pitch wasn’t up to scratch.
Their first-half penalty was something of a reprieve and they improved tenfold after the break, flattening Laois in the third-quarter, a period where they outscored their opponents by 0-7 to no score.
Tiarnan Madden, a surprise non-inclusion against Armagh, had possibly his best performance in a Cavan shirt to date while Gerry Smith weighed in with three points from play and Paddy Lynch was sharp up front.
Next in the firing line is London, another side Cavan will be expected to dispense with.
The exiles finished rock bottom in Division Four, a disappointing outcome given they had shown some signs of life in recent seasons.
They’re yet to muster a single victory all season (a draw against Wexford in their opening league match is their best outing to date) and lost out by 2-14 to 0-11 when they played Offaly in their Tailteann Cup opener last weekend.
Offaly didn’t have to overly exert themselves in a predictably comfortable victory.
London set up very defensively, doing well to slow Offaly down but rarely preventing shooting chances and they didn’t offer anywhere near enough down the other end of the pitch.
London battled to the bitter end and scored the final four points of the game but at that stage Offaly had basically switched off.
This is one of those games where anything other than a handy Cavan victory would be a surprise.
The Breffni are an experienced outfit at this stage and while they’d prefer to be in the chase for the Sam Maguire, they’re bound to be motivated by the desire to make amends for last year’s Tailteann Cup final defeat to Westmeath.
Victory would make sure of their place in the last eight and it would take a meltdown of epic proportions if they’re to fall short in this one.