GAA Football

Cavan ace Cian Mackey hoping for a League and Championship double over Down

Donegal Leo McLoone with Cian Mackey of Cavan during the Ulster Senior Football Championship preliminary round at Ballybofey last month Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

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CAVAN forward Cian Mackey expects a “very tricky” encounter against All-Ireland Qualifier opponents Down after both sides exited the Ulster Championship to high flying Donegal.

The Breffni men got back on the saddle with a handsome back-door win over Wicklow in Aughrim last weekend while the Mournemen will be still licking their wounds from their Ulster semi-final hammering to the Tir Chonaill men.

Cavan won their NFL Division Two meeting with Down back in March with Mackey making a massive impact after being introduced in the 25th minute.

Down missed four one-on-one goal opportunities in Kingspan Breffni Park before being picked off by their hosts in the second half.

“When I first heard we’d drawn Down, I thought a very tricky tie,” said Mackey, who came on as a second-half substitute in Cavan’s 2-16 to 1-5 win over Wicklow.

“Down would be in the same boat as us, pushing for Division One pretty much every year. We beat them by a couple of points in Breffni Park in the League but if they scored what they should have scored they could easily have beaten us by a few.”

Cavan were fancied by some observers to spring a surprise in their Ulster Championship opener against Donegal in May, but were easily dismissed by Declan Bonner’s men in Ballybofey.

Since that preliminary round win, Donegal’s star has soared this summer.

“Any time you lose an Ulster Championship match it’s hard to take,” said Mackey.

“When you get a clipping that we got up in Donegal it was a bitter pill to swallow. We knew going into that game Donegal were a quality side.

“They might have got relegated from Division One but they were never too far away in any match. In Division One you need that little bit of luck to win a couple of games.

“Donegal just proved how good they are. They’ve hit form at the right time. If you told them at the start of the year that they’d get relegated and be in an Ulster final, they would have taken your hand off for that.”

Cavan will not play a home game this summer due to renovation work taking place at Kingspan Breffni Park.

They will make the relatively short trip to Brewster Park on Saturday week (5pm) bidding to record a League and Championship double over Eamonn Burns’s men.

“Any home draws we get will be played at other grounds,” Mackey confirmed, who is still not fully fit after suffering an injury in the League final defeat to Roscommon at the beginning of April.

“In the long run, it’ll be better. Breffni needed a revamp and it was the only time they could do it. We knew our first match [against Donegal] was away anyway and if we had got through that it would have been an Ulster quarter-final so it was really only one home game you’d miss out in the Ulster Championship.

“We weren’t looking at the Qualifiers at that stage.”

After suffering a 23-point hammering to Dublin, Wicklow were always going to be at a low ebb for their All-Ireland Qualifier tie with Cavan.

“Going down to Wicklow, in general, is never easy,” insisted Mackey.

“It’s a sticky place to go and we’ve got stung there a couple of times now over the years. Last Saturday evening we came out of the blocks fairly well and got a bit of a lead which made it more difficult for them to hold us.

“It was good to get the win and we racked up a good score. But we always want to improve, so we’ll be looking to kick on and maybe play a bit better next weekend.”

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