Championship edge to promotion clash between Cavan and Tipperary

Tipperary's Michael Quinlivan has scored four goals in Division Two this season
Tipperary's Michael Quinlivan has scored four goals in Division Two this season Tipperary's Michael Quinlivan has scored four goals in Division Two this season

Allianz National Football League Division Two: Cavan v Tipperary (tomorrow, Kingspan Breffni, 3pm)

NO matter what happens elsewhere, the winners at Kingspan Breffni tomorrow will be playing their football in Division One next year.

If Cavan win they’ll go up, but if Tipp win they’ll go up and if it’s a draw the visitors (who have a game in hand) will need to beat Down in their final game to secure promotion alongside Roscommon (if they beat Cork).

A lot of loose ends remain to be tied up, but Breffnimen have their fate in their own hands and they have created this opportunity after losing just once in this campaign – last week against table-toppers Roscommon at Hyde Park. Mattie McGleenan’s men have a 100 per cent record at home which should give them the belief that they can win this shoot-out in front of a raucous Kingspan Breffni crowd and return to the top flight after relegation last year.

McGleenan – who guided St Patrick’s Grammar Armagh to the All-Ireland U16 basketball title last Friday – will be well aware of the challenge that lies ahead of his players.

Potent Tipp – who were promoted from Division Three last season – have scored 10 goals and 68 points so far in this campaign with Conor Sweeney leading the way on 2-30 and Michael Quinlivan weighing in with goals against Cork, Roscommon, Meath and Louth. In addition they have an excellent record at Breffni Park over recent seasons – last year Tipp travelled north to beat Cavan 2-15 to 0-18 in the Qualifiers and in 2016 they beat Derry 1-21 to 2-17 on their way to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

“It’s a Championship match really,” Tipp manager Liam Kearns told The Irish News.

“That’s good, we should learn a lot about ourselves and I’m sure Cavan will be in the same boat. “Whatever it is about Breffni Park, we seem to end up there playing important matches every year and we’re looking forward to it, it should be a right good game.”

At the outset of the season, Cavan boss McGleenan said he wanted to turn the Cavan town venue into “a fortress” and his players have responded to his call with a 100 per cent record on home soil. However, Tipp are good travellers and have dropped just a point (away to Clare) on the road this year).

“Cavan’s home form has been excellent,” Kearns acknowledged.

“They’ve led the League from the start and they must be confident going into the game. We’re up against it, it’s a knockout game and, from Cavan’s point of view, to have it at their home pitch is obviously an advantage.

“But we have a good record on the road. Tipperary is a hurling county our supporters have been outnumbered this year against Meath and against Roscommon so it doesn’t bother us too much whether it’s at home or away.”

An entertaining showdown is in store for the fans tomorrow.

Cavan boss McGleenan has set his team up with at least two inside forwards throughout this season and that attacking threat had seen the Breffni Blues to four straight wins before promotion rivals Roscommon halted their charge for the top flight last weekend.

McGleenan’s men will look to get the ball forward quickly when they have it and retain a defensive screen to shut out Sweeney and Quinlivan when they don’t. Defeat would be hard on Cavan who have been frontrunners all season but Tipp have the class and the experience to win this one and force their way into the company of the big dogs.