Wednesday 19 December 2018

Colm O'Rourke: Donegal's league campaign hinted at past glories and they can account for Cavan

Paddy McBrearty had a wonderful League. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Paddy McBrearty had a wonderful League. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

Two teams going in opposite directions in the League meet today in the Ulster Championship - Donegal on the way down from Division 1 and Cavan jumping straight back up from Division 2. Yet the odds don't reflect this. Donegal are hot favourites and deservedly so. Their performances in the League hinted at a return to past glories even though they only got three points.

Cavan on the other hand only lost one game in their campaign but it was the manner of their defeat in the final in Croke Park against Roscommon which showed up a lot of deficiencies. They scored 4-12 but let in 4-16 and could have conceded a lot more. Cavan were criticised in the past for a horrible defensive style, but when the handbrake was let off and they started to attack more the house of cards caved in.

A good team is based on backs who can defend first and last. There is a type of defender who is not interested in looking good but carries out his duties. In other words they mark their men. They are part of a dying breed because the modern game is based on flash backs getting the ball and joining in moves, giving and taking short handpasses, maybe even a corner-back scoring a point.

A pity the Gunner Brady is not around to ask what he thinks of corner-backs looking to score. He would not eat his dinner for a fortnight.

So for today Cavan need to get their man-marking right and keep Donegal to a total of 15 or 16 points. That will not be easy as Donegal have new talent like Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Jamie Brennan coming along. Paddy McBrearty had a wonderful League campaign and Ryan McHugh is better in summer weather and fast grounds. Add in Michael Murphy, Odhrán Mac Niallais and Hugh McFadden and it is easy to see that Donegal are a team going places; I expect them to be in the Super 8.

Cavan's best player in the League was Dara McVeety and he may not be at his best after injury. Cian Mackey will probe, Killian Clarke will run hard and Gearoid McKiernan can kick great points but what Cavan demonstrated most clearly in the League was the huge gap between First and Second Division.

When many of these players met at underage Cavan had the advantage but the tide has turned in Donegal's favour at senior level. This is likely to be very competitive but Donegal have impressed me in the League, despite their relegation, and I expect them to win.

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