Saturday 18 November 2017

Rossies and Cavan battle to avoid sorry end to promising campaigns

Roscommon manager John Evans
Roscommon manager John Evans
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

They were regarded as two counties with a good chance of reaching the last 12 in the Championship at least, but circumstances have decreed that either Cavan or Roscommon will have their season cut much shorter.

Indeed, if Roscommon lose in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday, it will be their earliest exit from the Championship since 2006, when they lost a qualifier tie to Meath on July 1.

They had expected that this weekend would be spent preparing for the Connacht final against Mayo on July 19, but that was before they ran into a Sligo storm which blew them out of the provincial race.

It was desperately disappointing for a team that secured promotion to Division 1 in April.

Now, John Evans and his chastened squad must summon all their resolve to rescue the season.

It was always likely that Cavan would have to build their summer around the qualifiers as they were matched with Monaghan in the Ulster quarter-final.

They did well - running the Farney men to a point, so Terry Hyland will feel that his squad are better placed psychologically than Roscommon.

Miserable

However, they will need to do a whole lot better than last year, when they lost to the Rossies by 0-15 to 0-5 in a home qualifier. Their miserable 0-5 return was the lowest in the entire Championship.

The sides drew in the opening round of this year's Division 2 campaign.

Hyland will be encouraged by the sharp rate of increase in Cavan's scoring rate against Monaghan, when they landed 0-15.

It's the sort of target that any side with genuine ambitions of making progress needs to deliver on a consistent basis, but it was well above Cavan's norm - they averaged 12.5 points in this year's League and just under 0-11 in last year's championship.

Progress in Cavan has been slower than anticipated after a period of dominance in the Ulster U-21 championship, which makes Saturday's game extremely important.

Another defeat could leave Hyland - who is in his fourth Championship as manager - vulnerable.

Evans has his critics in Roscommon too but the fact remains that he has steered them from Divisions 3 to 1 in successive seasons, a feat that deserves to be recognised, irrespective of the setback against Sligo.

It all contributes to what should be a fascinating contest, which will be shown live on RTE.

Irish Independent

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