Wednesday 13 December 2017

Clarke confident Cavan are ready to bounce back

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IT WAS 'the hand of Clarke' that instinctively scooped that ball back across the goalmouth to deprive Monaghan of a legitimate goal in the Ulster SFC semi-final.

But Cavan captain Alan Clarke reckons his side were more sinned against in the game's two glaring refereeing mistakes.

Just a point separated the sides and Cavan also had claims for a potential late equaliser ignored.

Many argued that this evened up the errors, but Clarke insisted: "No, two wrongs don't make a right.

"What happened to Monaghan was much earlier in the game, which gave them plenty of time to get back from it, whereas, at the very end of the game their goalkeeper took 13 steps and also fisted the ball to himself, and we still didn't get a free!

"There was no time left for us to come back from that, that was the big difference."

But his side have moved on now and are braced for today's tricky qualifier against Fermanagh.

Wins over Armagh and Fermanagh made for the Breffni's most successful Ulster campaign in years. But given the proximity of that nervy two-point victory in Enniskillen, drawing Fermanagh again was hardly the preferred choice, even if the game takes place in Kingspan Breffni Park.

The danger of repeat match-ups was underlined when Derry reversed their Ulster result over Down last week.

Playing Fermanagh twice in one month – the sides also met in Division 3 and in last year's qualifiers – gives Peter Canavan's side plenty of motivation.

The Breffnis won all of those games except the league meeting, in which Cavan had a man sent off. Yet Clarke insisted it was not the the qualifier 'draw from hell'.

"They know us well, but equally we know them well," he said. "It's not ideal to be playing them again, but that's the draw we got, there's pros and cons to it and we have just got to get on with it.

"The game in Enniskillen was very tight and we've been criticised this year at times for not pushing on.

"We play a high-intensity game and maybe that affects us in the final quarter sometimes but, against Monaghan, we never gave up right to the very end, and that was very encouraging."

This time last year Clark wasn't even part of the county panel.

But he is now captain and centre-back, earning a recall after a good run with Kingscourt to last year's county final.

An engineer who works locally, he is one of the oldest on a particularly young team and understands the need to strike while the iron is hot.

An early exit from the back door could deflate all the progress Cavan have made this summer.

"Yes, definitely, we want to keep going now because your best chance to do well is always when you're going well and have created some momentum," said Clarke.

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