Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ryan McMenamin: Breffni reaping the benefits of underage success

First and foremost, I thought that it was a poor spectacle but Cavan won't be too unduly worried about that as they have a semi-final against neighbours Monaghan to look forward to next.

Both sides set themselves up to play a defensive game, each deploying sweepers, and that made for very negative fare.

Having said that, you would have to say that Cavan got their tactics spot on and it shows that you can play 13 men behind the ball and win a big championship game – providing that you have a couple of class forwards up front and Cavan had that in Eugene Keating and Martin Dunne.

They hit eight points between them and that was something Fermanagh didn't have, quality finishers like that.

It took the home side 25 minutes to get off the mark. Put simply, they were masters of their own downfall. Their approach play was far too laboured and they didn't know how to deal with the mass defence Cavan had set up.

Instead of trying to spread the play and use the open spaces, they insisted on going through the middle and that played right into Cavan's hands as they were able to turn the ball over and then counter by getting the ball into their two hitmen.

I thought Cian Mackey was once again immense for the Breffni men, with centre-back Alan Clarke outstanding as well.

Cavan were content to let their opponents take short kick-outs and gain possession because they knew that once they came into contact they would turn them over nine times out of 10.

They played with more aggression and hunger and were stronger in the tackle than Fermanagh, and those components went a long way towards a well-deserved victory. Cavan could have been seven or eight in front at the break they were so much on top.

Fermanagh lacked ideas. They had Shane McCabe in a play-making role at centre half-forward and he was looking for too much time on the ball and you aren't going to get that in an Ulster championship match.

When Thomas Corrigan came on in attack for the Ernemen I felt that it gave them some badly needed impetus.

Knowing Peter Canavan as I do, he would have been bitterly disappointed with their first-half display and you could see that by the number of times he had his head in his hands. He is a born winner and I'm sure he let rip in the changing-rooms at half-time.

It had the desired affect, for when they reappeared they seemed to have more fight in them, getting the opening three points of the second period.


To their credit, Cavan didn't panic and I think that comes from the recent success that they have enjoyed at minor and U-21 level, with a lot of those finals being played at Brewster Park.

Fermanagh were always going to enjoy a spell of dominance but while they hit back to draw level, I believe they had exerted too much energy in the first half taking the ball into the tackle, and when the game was there to be won in the closing minutes it was Cavan who had the legs for it.

Fermanagh now go into the qualifiers and while there is no doubt they have work to do, the fact that they will be back in action inside the next fortnight will actually be of benefit to them.

Cavan, on the other hand, will relish a semi-final date with Monaghan and certainly won't fear them, but I'm still sticking with Malachy O'Rourke's side to reach the decider.

Irish Independent

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