GAA Football

Michael Hegarty: Donegal will have way too much firepower for gutsy Cavan

Donegal star Michael Hegarty playing against Cavan in the 2011 Ulster SFC quarter-final at Kingspan Breffni Park in Cavan
Gerry McLaughlin

FORMER Donegal star Michael Hegarty has called on the GAA to bin the back door and believes his native county will have too much firepower for Cavan in tomorrow’s Ulster final.

Hegarty was part of the Donegal panel in 2011 when they won their first provincial title in 19 years, beating the Breffnimen in the quarter-final along the way.

While he has the utmost respect for Cavan’s ability to come back, he is adamant that, although they have a “few big men around the middle” they just do not have the power or panache to trouble Donegal.

Having accounted for Tyrone in their opening Ulster Championship clash, Hegarty believes the gulf between Donegal and the Red Hands and the rest of the province is too great for there to be an upset in Armagh tomorrow.

"It's very hard to see any potential banana skin against Cavan on Sunday and even watching the Derry and Armagh game and the Donegal and Tyrone match it was like Division Three or Division Four teams playing and Division One teams respectively,'' said Hegarty.

"It is remarkable that so many teams are off the pace and there is a massive gap between the rest and the top six in the country and, while Cavan have great heart, I would include them among the others.

"They had a great victory over Down, but Down will be kicking themselves as to how they lost it."

Hegarty acknowledges that Cavan had absolutely unbelievable comebacks against Monaghan and Down.

"The way football has gone with teams holding up the ball and wasting time you would wonder how they managed to come back so well.

"Years ago, it was all out attack and you had some upsets.

"And we had a few this year with Cork putting Kerry out and I think that the knock-out Championship is a far better system, and it would help county football and I would like to see it go back to that way.

"The back door should be got rid of and a complete straight Championship knock-out is much fairer as it would give a greater chance for the weaker teams to make a breakthrough at some stage as the back door suits the stronger teams.

"This year's Championship has been much more exciting and that is what people want to see and on Sunday it is do or die for Donegal or Cavan and that is the way that it should be."

There is much more emphasis on attack with Declan Bonner - and Stephen Rochford has added another kicking dimension: "Donegal are playing very well and they can hold possession very well before striking to effect and when there are no fans at the match it takes the pressure off the players to have a go at it until they are ready.

"Donegal are playing a patient, varied game and have players who are very comfortable on the ball."

And Donegal's young guns are making a big impact said Hegarty: "They are all good footballers and Michael Langan and Ciaran Thompson have been exceptional this year and not as much is expected from Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh which leaves the team much better balanced.

"These young lads have been developing well over the past few years and it takes time.

"Peadar Mogan always had the fitness to go up and down the field even when he was a minor.

"He uses the ball well and he has no fear of taking men on and the whole team are playing with great confidence."

Played 3, won 2, drawn 1... Cavan's impressive record in Ulster finals in ArmaghPlayed 3, won 2, drawn 1... Cavan's impressive record in Ulster finals in Armagh

But Hegarty adds a note of caution, stressing that the return of Patrick McBrearty is vital for Donegal, going forward

"If they get over Cavan, they will not beat Dublin without Paddy and they would not win an All-Ireland without Paddy,'' he said.

'It will do him no harm to have a rest and if Donegal are going to win anything Paddy will have to be on the team, and it is a simple as that."

So if Michael Hegarty was Cavan manager what would he be saying.

"When they throw off the shackles and go at teams, Cavan can put them under pressure,'' declared Hegarty.

"There have always been good players in Cavan and I think Cavan are going to have to go at Donegal because if they sit back Donegal has the patience, power and accuracy to unpick them.

"They need to push up as much as you can and let Shaun Patton kick long and have a suitable cover.

"Cavan have a few big men around the middle of the field like Gearoid McKiernan, Killian Clarke and sometimes Padraig Faulkner who will be able to compete with Donegal in the air and Martin Reilly is the play maker.

"So, it then comes down to the 12 remaining players from each side need to scrap for the ball and if they are clued in then they will trouble Donegal.

''But Donegal should have far too much for Cavan.

"You are looking at a 10-point win and that is where Donegal are at, at the moment.

"It is all on the day, but if you were a betting man, that is where it could all end up at.

"Donegal's firepower is as good as Dublin's at the minute and that is massive."

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