Lavey and Gowna target surprises in Cavan SFC
Hotel Kilmore Cavan Senior Football Championship semi-finals
Lavey v Ramor United (tonight, Kingspan Breffni Park, 7.30pm)
Lavey’s most famous player has forecast another upset in this year’s Cavan SFC ahead of this evening’s semi-finals.
Johnny Cusack won an All-Ireland SFC medal with the Breffni blues in 1952 and, just as importantly he adds, he captained Lavey in ’51 to their one and only Cavan SFC title.
“It’s been the year of upheavals so why shouldn’t we go the whole way?” the 89-year-old asked.
“The standard hasn’t been great this year and we’ve been improving with every game,” he added.
“Even though Ramor are strong favourites we’ve got every chance of springing a surprise. Sure, didn’t we beat Kingscourt?”
In a year which has seen outsiders Cootehill Celtic dump Cavan Gaels out of the competition at the group stage and defending champions Kingscourt Stars given the road by Ramor in their quarter-final meeting, Lavey may well think that they can make good their first appearance in a SFC semi-final for 23 years.
Ironically, Lavey’s manager Kevin McDonnell won two SFC medals with his native Ramor and managed them when they last appeared in the county semi-finals six years ago.
The odds on Cavan breaking their duck in the Ulster SFC Club competition may continue to grow each year but there’s a refreshing look to this year’s semi-finals line-up and a corresponding heightened interest in the competition among neutrals.
“I think it’s good for Cavan football that there’s a few other teams now coming through because Cavan Gaels had a long spell at the top and the interest (among the neutrals) went down a lot,” said Cusack.
“It’s been a long, long time since we won it but as they say, ‘the darkest hour is always before the dawn’ and maybe the lads can take a big step by beating Ramor.
“I’d be worried, though, that our team is a bit on the light side. They’ve a lot of speed and are good footballers but I’m not so sure they’d do well if it turns out to be a rough game.
“The weather forecast isn’t good so it (rough play) might happen because it could be scrappy but I hope there’s not too many red cards. I don’t want to see any black cards either. I hate them. They should be done away with. Referees have all different interpretations anyway of what is and what isn’t a black card offence.”
Ramor and Lavey are the only sides to come through the group stage and play-offs unbeaten and Ramor will look to county attacker Jack Brady and a raft of county minor and U21 medallists to uphold their tag of favourites.
Castlerahan v Gowna (tonight, Kingspan Breffni Park, 6pm)
Outsiders Gowna will look to ruffle more feathers by taking the scalp of a very fancied Castlerahan side.
Gowna began this year’s SFC as 20/1 chances with former county stars Gerald Pierson and Mark McKeever rolling back the years in complementing the silky skills of young gun Conor Madden and the now injury-free David Hyland.
In Pierson, McKeever and goalkeeper Ronan Bannon, Gowna have players who picked up county medals in 2002, Castlerahan are gunning for a first Cavan SFC title.
Castlerahan’s include marquee players like erstwhile Cavan team-mates Cian Mackey and Ronan Flanagan in their ranks but their laboured replay victory last time out against Lacken Celtic won’t have inspired confidence among their supporters.
They lost out in last year’s decider to Kingscourt and few would begrudge them a county title but Gowna have the power and the experience to continue the pattern of upsets in this year’s competition.