GAA Football

Donegal coach Karl Lacey expecting huge challenge from Cavan in Ulster final

Donegal coach Karl Lacey watches the side warm up. He predicts a "huge challenge" from Cavan no Sunday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

KARL Lacey’s first game for Donegal minors ended in a hammering from Cavan and the Four Masters clubman is expecting a huge challenge from the Breffnimen in Sunday’s Ulster final.

All-Ireland winner and four-time Allstar Lacey is well aware that the Tir Chonaill men are odds-on favourites to defend their Anglo-Celt Cup but Cavan – in their first final since 2001 and determined to end a 22-year wait for their 38th provincial crown – will be full of confidence after wins over Monaghan and Armagh.

Cavan’s Ulster haul is a record that will not be broken for years. Monaghan are second with 16 titles, while Donegal can move up to sixth in the list if they win their 10th on Sunday.

“Cavan are going to be a huge challenge,” said Four Masters clubman Lacey.

“Gearoid McKiernan, Dara McVeety come in and out from full-forward, their wing-backs are excellent, you’ve got Killian Clarke and (Conor) Moynagh coming from corner-back… They are dangerous players and threats and we need to make sure we do our homework right.

“They looked very impressive and I thought in the replay against Armagh they were outstanding in terms of their versatility all over the pitch. From the full-back line to the full-forward line, they have dangerous players all over the place.

“It’s great to see them in an Ulster final and it’s hard to believe they haven’t been in one for so long. “It’s all set up for a great final and, listening to Micky Graham (manager) after the game, and the Cavan players, they’re not coming to make up the numbers. They’re looking to win and we’ll be no different.

“How they set up is out of our control, we’ll just have to get our own house in order, get our feet back on the ground. A lot of our boys have been beaten in Ulster finals so we’re not going to take anything for granted, we’ll get our feet back on the ground and refocussed. It’s going to be a big battle.”

The Donegal team is packed full of Ulster winners. Eoin McHugh, Jason McGee and rookie forward Oisin Gallen are among the few who haven’t already won their provincial Championship.

Donegal were far too strong for Cavan in the Championship last year but Lacey says they’ll pay no heed to their favourites’ tag.

“They (the Donegal players) are good guys and they know that any day you go out you have to be at your best no matter who you’re playing,” he said.

“We’ll take great confidence and great belief out of Saturday night but we need to work harder and get better and that’s what we’re going to do.

“We’ll have four or five sessions between now and the final and it’s important that we nail every single session and get our tactics and our gameplan right.”

Bonner, Lacey and assistant-manager Stephen Rochford certainly got the tactics right for the semi-final win over Tyrone. Donegal were four points ahead at the final whistle but were dominant throughout the game.

“When Mickey (Harte) named the team we knew there were going to be one or two changes and we didn’t see it coming at us,” Lacey explained.

“But that has nothing to do with us, we just needed to make sure we got our end right and we got the majority of the calls spot on.

“Everything worked in our favour, I thought we attacked very well in the first half and defended pretty okay although they could have got a goal when they came through the centre once or twice.

“We were seven points up at half-time but it could easily have been a one or two-point game.

“We learned from last year when we were five points up with 15 minutes to go in the Super 8s and they came back at beat us.

“We learned from last year and we are more mature now, a lot of those lads have that year behind and it stood to us on Saturday night as well.”

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