Cavan's Killian Clarke in close rivalry with Armagh men
CAVAN'S Killian Clarke knows all about county rivalries. He's a Shercock clubman, right near the border with Monaghan, while he does some bar work in Murtagh's of Kingscourt, which is cheek-by-jowl with Meath and not far from Monaghan either.
You'd imagine, though, that Monaghan literally gets in the way of any great rivalry with Armagh. You'd be wrong. Indeed, Clarke and his county colleague Michael Argue - from Bailieborough - could have a centre-field clash with two Orchard county opponents all this week in Belfast ahead of Saturday night's showdown in Kingspan Breffni Park. Clarke and Argue share a house in central Belfast with their fellow Ulster University men Ethan Rafferty and Stephen Sheridan, both of whom are on the Armagh senior squad.
Although this will be the first league clash since 2008, the two counties are set to meet in the Ulster SFC for the third time in four years, so Clarke says with a laugh: "It'll be a tasty encounter now. It'll be a hostile environment this week. The craic will be good, I'd say."
Both teams come into the Cavan town clash off the back of their first league victory of this campaign, Armagh having edged past Fermanagh last Saturday night, but few wins will feel better than the Breffni Blues' astonishing comeback success in Navan last Sunday.
Cavan effected a 15-point turnaround from trailing by eight points early in the second-half to winning by seven, 1-20 to 1-13, and Clarke admitted he had enjoyed that Pairc Tailteann win immensely: "Very much so. I was working in the pub [on Sunday night] and I'd have been calling in sick if we were beat, you'd be listening to a few of them [Meath supporters] around there," he said.
"All round Cavan, there are different rivalries, depending on where you're from. I'm from Shercock, 10 minutes down the road, and the main rivalry is Monaghan there. I went to school in Monaghan, in Carrickmacross - but Meath is a big one too."
What made the win all the more amazing was it wasn't a wind-affected 'game of two halves', says Clarke: "There might be a slight downhill, but I don't think the wind was a factor.
"We were very happy with the performance. We played well in the first-half, created chances - I was playing full-back and I found myself through on goal twice in the first 20 minutes, but we just didn't put the ball over the bar in the first-half. In the second-half, we started getting turnovers in the half-back line and just crucified them altogether. We ran at them with good pace and put the ball over the bar."
The finishing skills of Seanie Johnston, who registered six points including four from play, were a significant part of Cavan's improvement, but colleagues also chipped in, with 11 different scorers in all managing 1-17 from play.
Indeed, Clarke believed that finishing was the major missing element in their first two games, both narrow defeats, by two points in Tyrone and by the minimum margin at home to Derry: "We felt ourselves we played well in those two games," recalled the 22-year-old, "it was just coming back to that factor of not putting the ball over the bar. Kicking wides and kicking the ball short is going to crucify you against these teams.
"In the last five minutes against Derry, we had four balls blocked in the one play, unseen stuff. We're well on course now and, if we can get the win against Armagh, it'll be a nice boost for us."