GAA Football

Cavan v Armagh: Key battle, tactical take, man of the moment...

Rian O'Neill scored eight points in a man of the match performance against Down. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

Man of the moment

Rian O'Neill (Armagh)

THE Crossmaglen full-forward was outstanding against Down. On Championship debut, he was the Orchard County's attacking spearhead from the throw-in and registered the first of eight sweetly-struck points after just 19 seconds of action.

When Stefan Campbell entered the fray, O'Neill was able to drop out to midfield and it was his pass that created the Andy Murnin goal that decided the game in extra-time.

O'Neill is likely to come up against Padraig Faulker tomorrow. Faulkner tracked Conor McManus in the quarter-final and matched the Monaghan star's scoring tally from open play. If he drifts out the field, the onus will pass to Killian Clarke.

Key battle

Jarlath og Burns (Armagh) v Gearoid McKiernan (Cavan)

IT is possible that they'll be split up but the midfield joust between this pair could decide the game. Both players were superb in their side's quarter-final victories.

Burns, on Championship debut, drove Armagh forward in the second half against Down and with his ball-winning, tackling, tracking and running showcased the talent that has seen him earmarked for a bright future at inter-county level.

He will get a serious examination up against McKiernan tomorrow. The Cavan midfielder is now an experienced operator at the top level. Two-footed and physical, he needs no second invitation to get forward and will prove a handful at Clones.

Cavan struggled to win their own kick-outs against Monaghan and opted to go short with a lot of them but the attacking runs of the opposing midfield stars could be among the highlights of tomorrow's clash.

Tactical Take

Cavan

EVEN in a Division One campaign that ended in relegation, Cavan conceded just three goals with clean sheets against Galway, Kerry, Roscommon and Monaghan.

Well set up defensively, they have tenacious man markers in Padraig Faulkner and Killian Clarke and an energetic half-back line marshalled by skilful Conor Moynagh that gives them pace and power on the counterattack.

Cavan got the basics spot on against Monaghan. Up front, Conor Madden continues to develop alongside the likes of Dara McVeety, who is now an experienced operator at this level, and manager Mickey Graham, taking note of how all three of Down's goals in Newry came from high balls into the Armagh square, will give Martin Reilly licence to roam and get on the ball tomorrow. If he is given time and space, his passing can unlock the Armagh defence.

Cavan's finishing against Monaghan, particularly from wide areas outside the ‘scoring zone', was superb. The Breffnimen will attack down the flanks and look for the same accuracy again tomorrow.

Armagh

THERE have been rows in this fixture in the past but Armagh would be better advised to let their football do the talking tomorrow.

Andy Murnin's late impact against Down illustrated the depth of this Armagh squad. Mark Shields, Stefan Campbell and Ben Crealey were others who made impressions after coming off the bench. Manager Kieran McGeeney has the tools to tinker with his set-up as this game develops and could even finish with a stronger team than the one he starts.

Defensive lapses in front of their own posts contributed to Down's three goals at the quarter-final stage and the Armagh goalkeeper Blaine Hughes will have worked with full-back Aaron McKay and sweeper Brendan Donaghy to prevent Cavan wreaking more havoc tomorrow.

Cavan struggled to win their own kick-outs against Monaghan and Jarlath og Burns' energy and quality in midfield will be potent weapons for Armagh.

Meanwhile, Rian O'Neill will once again be the fulcrum of the attack and he'll have fellow Crossmaglen native for company up front. Campbell is another potential match-winner on his day.

Team Talk

Cavan: TBC

With attacking wing-back Ciaran Brady fully fit again, the Breffnimen have options in their engineroom. Manager Mickey Graham ran his bench to good effect against Monaghan, his replacements included Brady for black card recipient Jason McLoughlin – black cards were a regular feature of Cavan's League campaign.

Armagh: TBC

Oisin O'Neill played a senior league game against Dromintee on Thursday night and may not feature tomorrow. Meanwhile, Armagh are without Paddy Burns who limped off against Down but manager Kieran McGeeney has plenty of options on the bench.

Last Championship meeting

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Cavan 2-16 Armagh 0-14 (May 29, 2016)

ARMAGH sprung a surprise by naming Paul Courtney in their starting line-up. The former Ballyhegan clubman played as a gloveless sweeper/keeper and did his best but Cavan progressed to an Ulster semi-final against Tyrone after an eight-point win at Kingspan Breffni Park

A Dara McVeety goal, along with five Seanie Johnston points and three from Gearoid McKiernan had Cavan ahead by 1-09 to 0-7 at the break. Ethan Rafferty hit four for Armagh.

Martin Reilly netted a penalty eight minutes into the second half after Cian Mackey was bundled over. Armagh won a penalty too but Stefan Campbell's effort was well saved by Raymond Galligan.

Last 10 Championship meetings

May 29, 2016: Armagh 0-14 Cavan 2-16

June 8, 2014: Armagh 1-12 Cavan 0-9

May 19, 2013: Armagh 1-11 Cavan 1-15

June 15, 2008: Armagh 0-17 Cavan 0-13

June 13, 2004: Armagh 0-13 Cavan 0-11

June 11, 1978: Armagh 0-9 Cavan 0-16

June 5, 1977: Armagh 2-14 Cavan 1-12

July 18, 1965: Armagh 0-4 Cavan 1-10

June 24, 1962: Armagh 2-2 Cavan 3-8

June 4, 1961: Armagh 2-7 Cavan 0-8

Who's the ref?

Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

TIPP whistler O'Mahoney incurred the wrath of Cavan management after an All-Ireland U21 semi-final in 2014 after he penalised the then Ulster champions late in a nip-and-tuck clash with Dublin.

Several of the Cavan players from that game have graduated to senior level now and they can expect a typically no-nonsense approach from O'Mahoney who also took charge of Cavan's League clash with Galway and this year's Division Two final.

Weather watch

Sunshine and showers are forecast and there's a 23 per cent chance of rain at throw-in time. Yes, bring your coat.

Betting box

Cavan 4/6

Cavan 13/8

Draw 15/2

Worth a punt

First goalscorer: Martin Reilly 10/1

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