THIS Saturday at 6.30pm, all eyes will be on Kingspan Breffni as Cavan take on Armagh in what promises to be an exciting encounter.
Armagh, who were impressive in their recent game against Antrim, will be looking to continue their winning run. However, Cavan will be hoping to cause an upset and secure a crucial victory.
The big talking point from Armagh will be whether Rian O’Neill will start for the team. O’Neill is crucial to how Armagh play and his absence would be felt.
However, there are concerns about his fitness, and he may not be 100 per cent ready to start. Despite this, I believe Armagh must take the risk and start O’Neill even if he is only 50 per cent fit.
Cavan will need to stop Armagh’s deep runners, as Fermanagh exposed them in the first half of their National League Division Three final. In particular, they must keep a close eye on Ethan Rafferty, who will be looking to exploit any gaps in Cavan’s defence.
If Paddy Lynch can start firing early on, then Cavan will have a great chance. They must try to get Lynch on the ball as often as they can in attack.
Cavan has a great range of options in attack, with Dara McVeety, Gerard Smith, Lynch and Ryan O’Neill all capable of scoring. Cavan must get the ball to their shooters and make the most of their attacking options.
Raymond Galligan, the Cavan goalkeeper, is incredibly accurate from range and can score from free kicks within 50 yards.
If Cavan can win free kicks within this range, they can control the game with scores from the goalkeeper.
Cavan must not show fear in Armagh’s kick-outs. While many teams now allow teams to take the short kick-out and then press them at the 45 metre line, Cavan should press up to entice Rafferty to kick long into the middle third.
If Cavan can stop Rafferty building from the back with an overload and control his influence, then they stand a real chance of winning the game.
On their own kick-outs, Cavan will need to make the pitch wide and find pockets in their own half to pop the ball into.
They should avoid going long into the space where Ethan Rafferty will be pressing up to build further up the pitch.
Cavan can use Breffni to their advantage. If they can keep the game tight leading into the final 10 minutes, they will have a real opportunity to win the game.
If they can pick their chances with scores from 35 to 40 metres out to beat the highly packed Armagh defence, as well as Galligan’s long-range free-kicks, then the underdog story could be on.
Cavan’s ability to control the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half against teams will not be as easy as it has been in Division Three football. Armagh will be a tougher challenge, and Cavan will need to be at their best to control the game.
If Cavan can stick to this game-plan, then the underdog story could become a reality. They must not show any fear and take the game to Armagh.
It will be an exciting encounter, and Cavan will be hoping to cause an upset and secure a crucial victory.
Founder of GAA Periodization
Eleiko Strength Coach