Thursday 18 October 2018

Former hero King believes Carr's Cavan heading in right direction

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

HERO of Cavan's last successful Ulster campaign back in 1997, Stephen King, is expecting a battle royal as the Breffni and Antrim go head-to-head for a place in the provincial decider in Clones today.

King was at centre-field when Cavan edged out Derry by a point to collect the most recent of their 39 Ulster titles. However, they have made just one appearance in the province's big football day since, back in 2001 when Tyrone emerged victorious and the same opposition awaits the winners of today's clash.

But King believes an Ulster final appearance would be a boost for football in the county -- regardless of the opposition -- and reckons Antrim's cover is blown after their surprise win over Donegal in the opening round.

"Take nothing away from Antrim and their victory," King said. "They were well organised and played to a very definite plan -- but Donegal only started to play late on. Then some of the wides they kicked were unbelievable.

"They brought lads on who should have done better with the chances they had and it was a pity for them, because they looked like the kind of team that would improve as the championship went on. Antrim hung on well and shaded it, but their element of surprise is gone now.

"Cavan will have had a good look at that game and will know that if they take their chances, it is a great opportunity to reach an Ulster final with the way the draw has fallen this year, with all the stronger teams on one side."

King -- who himself was touted as a candidate for the Breffni hotseat -- was full of praise for Cavan's tactical approach in their win over Fermanagh, and he expects boss Tommy Carr to have his homework done on the Saffrons too.

"Cavan got it right against Fermanagh -- it was big result considering they already had a game under their belt. They kept their playmakers out of it. Nicholas Walsh did an excellent job in negating the influence of Marty McGrath; it's not that he got on the ball that much himself, but if you can keep someone like that quiet over 70 minutes, you have a day's work done."

Once again Seanie Johnston was their main source of inspiration, but King believes that Cavan have the ability to cope should the Cavan Gaels man have an off day.

"People will ask that question, 'What will Cavan do if Johnston has an off day?' but I think the likes of Ray Cullivan and Sean Brady have got plenty of ability and are well able to kick a point. You have the likes of Larry Reilly on the bench too. Equally, if Johnston gets good ball in, Antrim could really be in trouble."

The Ulster championship has come in for heavy criticism this summer and with both teams expected to funnel men behind the ball when not in possession, it could be a dour, low-scoring affair -- but King is expecting an entertaining game.

"You have lads on both sides with a lot of experience; some of them have Sigerson Cup and Ulster club medals. In Clones there will be that extra bit of space too and maybe a bigger crowd, so that should open it up a little bit. The Ulster championship is a different animal. It can throw up the unexpected."

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