CAVAN manager Mickey Graham is confident that his side can once again reach the heights that they hit in their quarter-final win against Monaghan as the prepare to face Armagh this Sunday.
The Breffni county travel to Clones having ended an 18-year wait for a championship win over their neighbours two weeks ago.
They had targeted that game ever since the draw was made back in October, but Graham feels that they have dealt well with the short turnaround as they prepare for this weekend’s semi-final.
“That’s the challenge that we face,” said the manager.
“We had lots of time to prepare for Monaghan, ever since the draw was made really.
“Every time you went out to play in the National League it was always geared towards getting ready for the championship.
“The challenge now is to see if we can back up our performance in a short space of time.
“You have to try and get so much work done in those two weeks whether it’s getting yourself right, making sure your own game is in order whilst also trying to work out ways to counteract Armagh.
“There’s a lot work to be done in such a short space of time.
“Sometimes you can overdo it as well so we just hope we have the balance right. We have worked hard but I guess we can only answer those questions on Sunday.”
The former Breffni star sees plenty of similarities between the competing teams and that, he believes, points towards an all-action encounter.
“Armagh are probably in the same boat as ourselves,” he said. “They haven’t had much to cheer about in recent seasons in the Ulster Championship.
“It’s always a relief to get over that first game and it’s the same for ourselves.
“Both teams are going into the game with the pressure off. It’s a big opportunity given what’s at stake.
“From that point of view, neither team is going to be lacking in the hunger or desire department.
“It’s up to whichever team grabs that opportunity, because it’s a big opportunity for both.”
Officials are anticipating a crowd f about 20,000, which would be a huge jump from last year’s semi-final clashes.
Both counties are noted for their fanatical support but Graham has said that his players are aiming to play the game rather than the occasion.
“I suppose when you get into the final week your preparations are nearly done and it’s all about fine-tuning a few things before the big day,” he said.
“People in Cavan are starting to get a wee bit excited about the weekend, they haven’t been in this situation in a few years.
“They’ll probably get more excited about it than the players.”
Graham also said that it should be a similar team that takes to the field from the side that defeated Monaghan given that they have no injury concerns.
“We have a full clean bill of health, thank God.
“Everyone came through the last day bar a few knocks and bruises but we’ll report that everyone is good to go.”
Cavan’s last Ulster semi-final success was that win over Monaghan 18 years ago when they won 0-13 to 0-11 at Clones.
Monaghan looked in a good position to win until Man of the Match Finbar O’Reilly kicked the Breffni county into gear in the final 20 minutes.
Anthony Forde, whose cousin Glen Murphy denied them a number of goals as Monaghan ’keeper, Michael Brides and Edward Jackson were other players who stood out.
Graham was part of that Cavan squad that year, coming off the bench in the two-point Ulster final loss to Tyrone, and he would love nothing more than to return to the final as manager.
“It’s set to be a great day for both counties and hopefully we can come up with the answers.”