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Last weekend, the hurling semi-finals provided us with our GAA fix and didn’t disappoint. Now, the Gaelic semi-finals take centre stage, and on paper, they may not be as well matched. But as has been the way throughout the Championship, major upsets are never too far away. First up is Cavan vs Dublin on Saturday evening.
Among all the outsiders to record big wins in this year’s championship, no team has caused more upset than Cavan. The Ulster men would not have been backed by many to advance from the most competitive of the provincial Championships. Yet, they find themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final after winning their first Anglo-Celt Cup since 1997.
Firstly, Cavan provided an opening round shock by coming from seven points down to beat Monaghan in extra time. On that occasion, goalkeeper Raymond Galligan was the hero with a last-minute 55-metre free to send the Breffni men through.
Next, a run-of-the-mill win over Antrim was less of a headline. But, that was followed by another big turnaround. Micky Graham’s men beat Down in the semi-final despite being down by eight at the interval.
Most recently, they came up against Donegal in the final. Before the game, many were already matching up Donegal and Dublin with the belief that the O’Donnell men possessed the last chance to dethrone the Dubs. However, Cavan continued to rewrite the script.
At half-time, there was just two between the teams in Donegal’s favour. Cavan continued to plug away though and soon edged ahead. Then, in the closing moments Gearoid McKiernan floated a long ball into the Donegal square that Shaun Patton failed to deal with. As a result, Conor Madden put the ball in the net to ensure the game was beyond Donegal’s reach.
Despite the mass murmurings suggesting Cavan would have preferred to play Dublin outside of Croke Park, the Breffni men will be relishing the challenge. A chance to play in GAA headquarters has always been a just reward for the Provincial winners. Furthermore, Graham’s side have already proved they can put it up to the best.
Unlike their semi-final opponents, Dublin progressed to this stage in a more typical manner. The five-in-a-row winners haven’t taken their foot off the gas and have seamlessly adjusted to life after Jim Gavin. The new man Dessie Farrell hasn’t been afraid to juggle the team that brought so much success. The emergence of Sean Bugler and Robbie McDaid is a prime example of the embarrassment of riches at Farrell’s disposal. Likewise, Paddy Small has kept Paul Mannion in reserve thus far.
They won their three Leinster Championship games against Westmeath, Laois and Meath by a combined 54 points. Perhaps even more impressively, they seem to have only been operating in third gear.
With the absence of Donegal and Kerry from the All-Ireland series of the Championship, all the money will be on Dublin to complete an unprecedented six-in-a-row. The only real unknown for many is who Farrell will select. Will he continue with his blend of old and new? Or will the likes of Brian Howard, Paul Mannion and Kevin McManamon force their way into the fifteen? Similarly, Cormac Costello continues to impress with every display. Costello successfully appealed against his red card against Meath making him available this weekend.
Those who are already lining up a Dublin vs Mayo Final for the third time in five years run the risk of speaking prematurely. This year’s Championship has been the most unpredictable in recent memory. However, for all of Cavan’s achievements in Ulster, Dublin are a different animal, especially in Croke Park.
The game is live on RTÉ and Sky Sports Mix.
Dublin are 1/50 favourites. On the other hand, Cavan are 16/1 and a draw is 33/1.
SFC Semi-Final: Cavan vs Dublin, Saturday, December 5th, 17:30 (Croke Park).
Conor Madden scored this crucial last minute GOAL for @CavanCoBoardGaa in the @UlsterGAA Senior Football Final and #GAANOW will be back this weekend at Croke Park to bring the best of the action straight to your screens! Don't miss out – https://t.co/4cnl9gytir pic.twitter.com/SOChSZBD91
— The GAA (@officialgaa) December 3, 2020