Donegal and Cavan look to lay down a marker on return to Ulster Senior Championship
Ulster Senior Championship semi-final: Cavan v Donegal (today, Kingspan Breffni Park, 5pm)
DONEGAL and Cavan mark their return to the Ulster senior championship after a year's absence when they meet this evening in Kingspan Breffni Park.
Maxi Curran's Tir Chonaill charges won three titles in-a-row up to 2019 but the four in-a-row was parked when they opted not to participate in the competition last year due to player welfare issues, while Cavan pulled out because of Covid-related issues.
Donegal appear to be a side on a mission this season. They might have lost last weekend's Division One semi-final to holders Cork but they were certainly within reach and as Curran said in his after-match reaction it was a game they felt was there for the taking.
Cavan come into today's game also with a defeat in their last outing, that a Division Two semi-final loss to Meath last weekend as well. Similarly to Donegal, they had won their three league fixtures, all against Ulster and senior championship opposition, and look impressive under new manager Gerry Moane.
The winner will book their place in the Ulster final, which has yet to have its date confirmed, but it is looking like August at the earliest, and after today's game their focus will immediately turn to the All-Ireland series which gets under way in two weeks' time.
Curran is enjoying the fast pace at which the games are coming and would have preferred to see this competition played out quicker. After last year's absence will be intent on sending out a reminder to everyone else that they want to win back that Ulster title, most recently held by Armagh.
“The Ulster championship is very important to us. We feel a bit forgotten about last year. We haven't lost a game in the competition in five years with our only defeat in seven years coming against Cavan in the 2016 semi-final,” said Curran.
“Cavan have made a great start to the season and they were unlucky against Meath last weekend. If a couple of their goal chances had went in, it would have changed the game completely. They will be disappointed with the outcome, just like ourselves, and with this quick turnaround, there is not better way to put that behind you and move on.
The sides met two years ago in the Ulster championship, at this same semi-final stage, with Donegal needing extra-time to see off the Breffni Blues.
“Cavan pushed us all the way in 2019 and we know the difficult challenge they will bring to the table. We are really looking forward to the game. There is a lot at stake, any team can win on the day and we have to be at the top of our game if we are to progress.”
Moane says he has been impressed with how his players have responded to last weekend's efeat to Meath. They might not have had the rub of the green on occasions but their performance level was not to the standards he and the players expect of themselves.
“We were disappointed, it was one of those days, but there has been a massive response from the players this week. We are looking forward to Donegal and it's a chance for us to get rid back into the thick of it after the Meath game,” said Moane.
“We need to step up, however, and reach the same level of performance we did in the first three games and then some more. It has been a long time since Cavan were last in the Ulster final and of course you want to get there again. It will be a big challenge for us and it will be a step up for us but we will look to get the performance we know we can give and push Donegal all the way for the result."