GAA Football

Cavan eye an upset against Monaghan

Cavan U17 manager John Brady. Picture by Seamus Loughran

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Ulster U17 Football Championship semi-final: Cavan v Monaghan (tomorrow, Athletic Grounds, 5.15pm)

IT was Monaghan that came into the Ulster series with the weight of expectation on them and yet if you were to say either side's impressed so far, it would be Cavan.

That would be hard to argue with in the context of their respective league campaigns. While not always the best gauge, they'll usually offer some clue.

Cavan were the only one of the nine counties to finish without a single point, losing to Monaghan, Armagh and Down before they were squeezed out in the shield semi-final by Derry.

With that mid-campaign derby win under them, Monaghan went on to win the league, winning three out of three before comprehensively beating both Donegal and Tyrone to take the Jim McGuigan Cup home.

Yet it's been a bumpy ride to the semi-final for Seamus McEnaney's side. Derry squared them up and took a chunk off them in extra-time, and barring the 15-point win over Antrim, they've ridden their luck since.

A strong Donegal side looked to have their measure in a repeat of the league final, having led from early on until the 59th minute, but Monaghan hit the last four scores to turn a two-point deficit into a 1-12 to 1-10 victory in Ballybofey.

That seemed to clear the path for them to ease into a semi-final but they almost got caught sleeping on the job, having to come from six down to force extra-time against Down, where they only got clear in the second period to win by four.

Cavan, meanwhile, have built on the foundations of a solid defence, a monstrous physical presence in areas and a couple of very handy forwards to put forward a strong championship challenge.

They set an ambush for Derry as they came down from the Monaghan win, taking them into Kingscourt and edging them out after two extra five-minute periods of extra-time.

John Brady's side made heavier weather of a well-drilled Fermanagh side that frustrated them for long periods, but with midfield pair Eoin Clarke and Ryan O'Reilly (who's hit 0-7 in two games) providing the platform, their ability to land scores from range was enough for them to pick their way through.

Emmet Boylan is the star turn in attack for the Breffni boys, and while they lost the game back in March, they'll have taken heart from restricting Monaghan to just 0-10 on the night.

Their attacking game has improved since then and if they can restrict the influence of Aaron Mulligan and Karl Gallagher, they will fancy their chances of an upset.

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