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It’s a repeat of last year’s Ulster Final in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday as Cavan attempt to dethrone Donegal again. Donegal claimed a five-point win last year but Cavan still went much further than many expected. Likewise, they have been major underdogs on two occasions already this year and have proved everyone wrong. But, Donegal have been proving they’re a class above their Ulster opponents so far this year. Hence, Cavan face their toughest task if they are to continue they’re trend of providing upsets.
Firstly, the Breffni men got the Ulster Championship off to a spectacular start. With ten minutes left on the clock, they trailed Monaghan by six. Somehow Cavan came back to send the game to extra-time which was an achievement in itself. But, they smelled blood and pushed Monaghan all the way. Penalties seemed inevitable until goalkeeper Raymond Galligan scored the winner from 59metres out.
— Ulster GAA (@UlsterGAA) November 18, 2020
A reasonably comfortable win over Antrim followed but Cavan repeated their comeback trick last weekend against Down.
This time, they were on the wrong side of an eight-point deficit at half-time. It seemed like five games in five weeks was taking its toll on Mickey Graham’s men as bad handling and decision-making suggested fatigue. Furthermore, Down were just much more economical in possession.
But, Graham’s adjustments at the interval proved to be good ones. For example, Conor Madden came in and kicked three points in addition to two assists. Likewise, Thomas Galligan was put at full-forward and tied up the Down defence effectively. They smothered Down in midfield and the forwards capitalised with a steady stream of points to eclipse Down’s early lead.
Donegal hype train rolls on
Meanwhile, Donegal returned to the pitch for the first time since their duel with Tyrone. Armagh were the opposition and on paper it was going to be another stern test for Donegal’s credentials. Yet, half-time Declan Bonner’s side had blown the Orchard County out of the water and there was already talk of a Donegal-Dublin semi-final.
At the interval it was 1-12 to 0-3 after a display of sheer dominance by Donegal. Their physicality in the tackle made Armagh’s attacks absolutely futile. At the other end, size didn’t come at the expense of skill as the points continued to come.
Somewhat worryingly, Donegal’s defensive guardian Stephen McMenamin left the pitch after three minutes with a hamstring strain. Bonner admitted the chances of him being fit for this weekend’s final didn’t look good at the time.
Odhran McFadden-Ferry is another absentee for Donegal. He is on tour with the Irish Army. In addition, Paul Brennan left the pitch midway through the second-half due to injury.
In contrast, Paddy McBrearty got some well-needed Championship minutes and scored with his first contribution.
While Cavan have already proved themselves capable of turning the tide against major opponents, the Donegal train is at full tilt. They racked up 1-22 against Armagh in 70 minutes of pure precision.
Monaghan and Down had bad spells to allow Cavan back into their games. It’s hard to imagine Donegal showing such a lapse.
The Ulster final is live on RTÉ.
Paddy Power have Donegal at a short 1/10 versus Cavan’s 7/1. A draw is 10/1.
Prediction: Donegal. Cavan are no right-off. But, even their best is probably not enough to see them past Donegal here who are proving to be genuine title contenders.
Cavan Raymond Galligan, Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Luke Fortune, Gerard Smith, Killian Clarke, Ciaran Brady, Thomas Gilligan, Killian Brady, Martin Reilly, Gearoid McKiernan, Oisin Kiernan, Oisin Pearson, Chris Conroy, Conor Madden.
Donegal: Shaun Patton, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Neil McGee, Eoin McHugh, Ryan McHugh, Paul Brennan, Peader Morgan, Hugh McFadden, Caolan McGonigle, Ciaran Thompson, Niall O’Donnell, Michael Langan, Paddy McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan
Ulster Championship Final: Cavan vs Donegal, Sunday, 22nd November, 16:00 (Athletic Grounds).
— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 17, 2020