THE Ulster final swings around again and once more we have had a surprise or two along the way.
Granted Roscommon caused a bit of an upset last weekend when they overcame Galway to clinch the Connacht crown, but Ulster is where all the action has happened this year.
We have had some fantastic battles, some big upsets and some incredible displays. Cavan and Donegal are the last two standing and on Sunday they will go toe-to-toe for the Anglo Celt and perhaps more importantly, their ticket into the ‘Super 8s’.
Donegal blew Tyrone out of the water last time out and based on that performance alone they will go in to this tie as hot favorites. They looked extremely impressive against a fancied Red Hand side and their confidence will be sky-high heading into this final.
Donegal are blessed with blistering pace and in the white heat of championship football that can be a dangerous weapon. Donegal have an extremely strong running game and if needs be they can switch to a more direct style of play by placing Michael Murphy inside.
I have already been on record saying that I would love for Michael to be stationed there full time but at this stage we can take it that it’s never going to happen. Against Tyrone he drifted in and out and pulled the stings around the middle and against Cavan he will play a similar role.
I do expect Michael to start inside early on and I think Donegal might try and land a sucker-punch early in the contest to try and take the wind out of the Cavan sails.
Looking at both teams it’s hard to see how Cavan can hold this Donegal team for the 70-plus minutes. If the Donegal forwards are held relatively quiet you would still expect the likes of Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher and Ryan McHugh to punch holes from deep.
Cavan have had a great Ulster campaign to date and I’d imagine the whole county in going crazy at the thought of landing their first provincial title since 1997.
That’s a long time for a county with the sort of tradition Cavan has, and it’s great to see them back near the top once more.
We all know about the amount of success this team have had at underage level but if we are honest most of us thought that they just couldn’t transform that success onto the senior stage.
I had spoken about them over the last few seasons hoping and indeed tipping them to make an impact but for whatever reasons that never transpired. Mickey Graham came in as manager this year and he seems to have brought the same sort of attitude and belief that saw his club team Mullinalaghta do so well last year.
In their games with Armagh they showed resolve and bottle to finally get over the line and they will be looking forward to challenging themselves against a team like Donegal.
They have some excellent ball players with the likes of big Gearoid McKiernan and young Dara McVeety but will it be enough to see them through this one?
Based on experience and strength in depth it’s hard to see anything but a Donegal win but I’m sure the Cavan camp is full of confidence heading into this one.
They are ideally placed for an ambush with no one really giving them a chance against Donegal based on the Tir Chonaill’s last outing. Prediction time and although an Ulster title would do more for this Cavan team than it would for Donegal, I just feel that Donegal will have too much knowhow and guile for this Cavan team. Donegal by four.