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Ryan McMenamin: Orchard County undone by playing without sweeper

AT some stage of their championship preparations, every manager will have to decide whether they will play a sweeper or not.

At Breffni Park, Armagh's decision to go without cost them the match. No question.

It wasn't a good game of football but I believe that pre-match favourites Armagh played into Cavan's hands with their decision making.

It was apparent from early on that Eugene Keating and Martin Dunne had the measure of the Armagh full-back line. Dunne may have missed a few frees but that didn't take away from his confidence with eight superb points from play – but all without a glove being laid on him. To say the least, that's an unusual occurance in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship.

There are two types of sweeper – offensive and defensive. I played as a defensive one last year in the championship against Donegal and my sole job was to win ball coming in and lay it off.

At no time was I to push forward.

Armagh would have benefited greatly by employing such tactics yesterday as Dunne and Keating got possession far too easily and strangled the defence with it as a result.

Playing as a sweeper isn't as straightforward as people make out, though.

How good you are depends on the players out the field. They have to be putting pressure on the ball coming in and if they do that, you can look like somebody who is two steps ahead of the flow of the game.

In their back-line, Cavan had their homework done with Alan Clarke blotting out the threat of Jamie Clarke and it worked a treat for them.

It was obvious that he was going to be the target of most of the ball played in by Armagh and when that was cut off the Orchard County didn't have a plan B.

Tactically I felt that the young Cavan side were miles ahead, with Keating playing a key role as well by alternating between the full-forward line and midfield.

Cian Mackey played an important role as he came deep to win possession and at times Ciaran McKeever didn't know whether to go with him or stay back, and that cost Armagh a goal when he burst through the heart of their defence. As a defender, your first duty is to defend and that didn't happen here.

Fergal Flanagan was also deployed to do a man-marking job on Aaron McKernan and he did it very well, with McKernan managing to only get into attacking positions in the closing stages of the game, although he appeared hampered with an early knock.

A youthful Cavan side were a lot sharper than their opponents and I have to say that Armagh bore little resemblance to the team of grit and determination that I would have associated with them down through the years and that will be the most frustrating part for them when they wake up this morning.

Cavan will go into the derby quarter-final with Fermanagh in a confident frame of mind although I can't see Peter Canavan making the same mistakes.

He will have his homework done, with Ryan McCluskey operating as a sweeper against them, and a speedy corner-back such as John Woods picking up Dunne, with possibly Barry Owens on Keating.

Irish Independent