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Expert predictions – Armagh v Cavan Ulster SFC

Aidan O’Rourke

I PREDICT that Armagh will win by three or four points because I feel that they are at a stage in their development where they should be expecting to win such games with a number of players having been under ‘Geezer’s’ tutelage for three to five years now.
They should now possess the mindset that they belong in an Ulster final and that, along with the fresh talent introduced this season, strengthens my belief that they are ready to take their game to the next level.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but they actually don’t have too much to change heading into the game, they just have to become more efficient with their style of play and cut out the basic errors.
It is the small mistakes that are really hurting them but the players and management will be aware of that and they will be keen to keep the concentration levels high throughout the game.
The win over Down last time out will be a real weight off their shoulders. It is never easy to win an Ulster Championship match but it had been dragging on a bit and the group will be happy to get that particular monkey off their back.
Keeping concentration levels high for 70 minutes is a very difficult task but they must make sure they do it at vital times. That didn’t always happen against Down but they have to treat it as a learning experience.
It happened a few times in the league and it basically cost them a real shot at promotion, but they made amends last time out and maybe that’s the positive they can take – that they were able to recover the situation. They were much better than Down but it still took extra-time, so improvement is needed when they are in commanding positions.
I am not privy to what is going on behind closed doors but I would expect that they are keen to stick with a winning formula so I wouldn’t expect many changes. It will be tough to break into a team that has just won a championship game although injuries play a part.
The one name that jumps out at me is Andrew Murnin. I had been led to believe that he had a potentially career-ending injury but to see him come on and do so well the last day will give the whole group a lift.
For me, he is the one player on the Armagh panel who could seamlessly fit into the current Dublin team as he has everything that a modern day forward requires. The longer he is on the pitch the more chance Armagh have of winning.
Hopefully we see enough of him to help Armagh over the line.

Mickey Hannon

ARMAGH are probably a bit of an unknown from Cavan’s point of view. I watched their game against Down and there were a lot of names and faces that I was scratching my head trying to figure out who they were.
There were a few you recognised like young Burns in the middle there who plays very like his father.
A lot of the Cavan lads wouldn’t have played too often against that Armagh team so there’s an element of surprise about it.
I would be making Cavan favourites for the game when you look at the experience they have racked up over the last few years.
They played in Division One for a few seasons. Okay they went up and got relegated a few times but they have shown that they can make of claim of being in and around being the eighth, ninth, 10th best team in the country.
If you look at Cavan under Mickey Graham they have been very strong defensively and they have probably been the opposite of what Armagh have been this season.
They maybe lack a bit of firepower. I think their average in the National League was 11 or 12 scores a game, admittedly against Division One defences.
Since Mickey Graham has come in, he has really tightened things down at the back without having to revert to the ‘black death’, that phrase that was coined a few years ago.
He’s put the best defenders we have in Cavan back playing in defence. If you count the number of times Killian Clarke and Padraig Faulkner had played together in defence for Cavan over the years it’s maybe only eight or nine times.
They’re both in there now and we can see what happens when you have your best defenders in defence rather than trying to play one of them in midfield, which had happened over the years.
From an attacking point of view they can be hit and miss. They rely a lot on Gearoid McKiernan. Martin Reilly had a great game against Monaghan and if he can repeat that performance he’ll bring a lot of others into the game.
If you have a strong defence you’re going to be there or thereabouts in any game. If they can get a few players to click at any point in the game then I can see Cavan just having enough.
The fact that both teams have a monkey off their back, Armagh winning a game and Cavan finally beating Monaghan, means that the pressure valve has been released and we could actually see a very entertaining game here.

Ronan Scott

THE last few years of shocks in the Ulster Championship have come by virtue of Monaghan slipping up. Down beat the Farney in 2017 and reached the Ulster final. Fermanagh did it last year and reached the decider, and this year it is likely to be Cavan’s turn to take their place in the Ulster showpiece. I’ve actually been tipping Cavan for success fairly regularly ever since they won four Ulster u-21 titles in a row from 2011 to 2014. But they have yet to make the breakthrough. Despite their relegation,m playing at the top flight has clearly helped them, and in Mickey Graham they have a manager who has the brain to get them over the line. It took ‘Geezer’ five years to get his first Ulster Championship win. Graham did it in year one. I’m backing the Breffni.

Niall McCoy

CAVAN should win this; they are more experienced and have a better balance across the pitch. It doesn’t mean that Armagh can’t prevail though. Very few players had a good game against Down and it’s unlikely that they’ll have so many who underperform twice in a row. The defence also took a bit of stick after the Down match and they should be really motivated to prove a point here. In attack they have real stars in Rian O’Neill and Jamie Clarke while Stefan Campbell, whether from the start or the bench, is sure to have a big say. I just think Cavan have enough good, solid defenders to keep those main threats relatively quiet. Jason McLoughlin and Padraig Faulkner will probably be tasked with keeping Clarke and O’Neill quiet and they should be confident of breaking even. If they do that then Cavan should have three or four points to spare.

Niall Gartland

CAVAN are favourites to clinch a place in the final with the turf accountants, and we at Gaelic Life have tipped them to overcome Armagh as well (it’s possibly reverse psychology on McCoy’s part though). It’s a bit of an odd one considering these teams hold a similar rank in most people eyes, but I think the reason for why people are leaning this way is because of one man – Mickey Graham. Defeating Monaghan is a major psychological boost to the county, but they still have plenty to work on, and even though I’m giving them a hestitant nod, I think there’ll only be two or three points in it at the final whistle.

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