Crosserlough v Lavey
Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, 6pm
CROSSERLOUGH are tipping along nicely in this year’s championship, but their manager Jimmy Higgins doesn’t think they’re one of the two favourites for the competition.
Last year’s beaten finalists qualified for this weekend’s quarter-final against Lavey with group stage victories over Shercock, Cavan Gaels and Ramor, with their sole defeat coming at the hands of Ramor.
Their manager Jimmy Higgins believes that the 2016 champions are the form team in this competition along with last year’s victors Castlerahan.
“When we played Ramor, it was basically their team that won the championship a few years ago. They and Castlerahan look like the two form teams. Castlerahan are probably still the team to beat.”
Losing to Ramor left them in danger of an early exit, but they whalloped Mullahoran in their fourth and final group stage match on a scoreline of 4-11 to 1-6.
They’ve had a fortnight’s break to prepare for their quarter-final against Lavey, and it’s a break they needed with their various county players at senior and U20 level feeling the strain after such a busy season.
“Our county lads are carrying a few niggles but nothing major and it’s good to have a year off. It’s not going to keep them out of the match, it’s just the time of year really.
“It’s been hard for us, we didn’t really have the team together all year so we’re only starting to find our feet now.”
“The way things are done in Cavan, you can be lucky or unlucky with the draw. It’s all about getting to the last eight no matter what.”
Crosserlough will look to the likes of Dara McVeety, Conor Rehill and Pierce Smith to lead the way against a competitive Lavey side this weekend.
Lavey, who have a good degree of continuity under their returning manager Kevin McDonnell, booked their place in the last eight by finishing eighth in the table.
They lost their first match against Cavan Gaels, could ‘only’ manage a draw against Castlerahan on their second day out, but made sure of their place in the quarters with back-to-back wins over Mullahoran and Cootehill.
Both sides seem to be coming to the boil at the right time, but Crosserlough have slightly more talent within their ranks and are another year older and wiser with a clutch of players involved with Cavan this year.
Ramor v Gowna
Friday, Kingspan Breffni, 8.45pm
THE first of this weekend’s championship matches has the potential to be the best.
Ramor finished an impressive third in the table, and although they scraped a couple of victories, their most impressive performance came when they beat Crosserlough by 1-17 to 1-13.
They won a dramatic final round match against Lacken to make doubly sure of their place in the quarter-finals, with Jack Brady making a goal-line clearance right at the death to secure the result. Lacken fans were very unhappy with the referee’s performance, but Ramor won’t be particularly bothered by that.
Gowna, meanwhile, are one of the dark horses for this year’s championship.
They have some very talented players like Cian Madden and managed to take their place in the last eight despite a disappointing defeat to Killygarry in their last match.
Cavan Gaels v Kingscourt
Sunday, Lavey, 2pm
THERE’S considerable intrigue surrounding this clash – even more than usual, anyway – following the news that Ronan Clarke is no longer in charge of Cavan Gaels.
The Armagh legend was brought in at the beginning of the season, and successfully steered his side to the quarter-finals, but news filtered through last weekend that he was no longer in the post following their 4-7 to 1-8 defeat to Castlerahan.
It’s a bit of an unwelcome distraction for the Gaels, even though they’ve already found a replacement for now in the form of ex Cavan Gaels player Karl Crotty, who also used to play with the county.
Heavy group stage defeats to Crosserlough and Castlerahan suggested that they aren’t at the peak of their powers, so this is probably a decent time for Kingscourt to take on the 2017 champions.
Kingscourt went through the group stages unbeaten – a draw against Lacken was their ‘worst’ result – so they’ll be confident on going on a run through the knock-out rounds.
They have a strong spine down the side and Padraig Faulkner is one of the most in-form players in the county right now.
Castlerahan v Killygarry
Sunday, St Mathew’s Park, 4pm
CASTLERAHAN fans will hope that the floodgates will open, so to speak, after finally getting over the line in last year’s championship, and the team are certainly going the right way about it.
Donal Keoghan’s side finished top of the table in the group stages, and it was mostly plain-sailing barring their match against Lavey where they trailed by 11 points but staged a remarkable comeback to snatch a draw.
Oisin Kiernan, who battled back from cancer after missing last year’s championship, scored three points that day, albeit they are missing a few players from last year’s winning team.
Killygarry, meanwhile, have done extremely well just to make the knock-out rounds after finishing in the relegation play-offs last season, salvaging their senior status with a win over Killygarry.
A fine win over Gowna on the last round of group stage matches ensured they sneaked into the last eight, but their opponents had already qualified and it’s hard to see their season lasting beyond Sunday.