Key battle, man of the moment and tactical take in Dublin versus Cavan All-Ireland semi-final

Ciaran Kilkenny has looked unmarkable this season. Picture Seamus Loughran.
Ciaran Kilkenny has looked unmarkable this season. Picture Seamus Loughran.

Key battle

Ciaran Kilkenny v Padraig Faulkner

KILKENNY has looked unstoppable this season. How to do you mark him? Get tight and he’ll run the ball into the tackle, shrug you off and leave you for dead. Stand off and try to hold him up and he’ll use the pocket of space in front of him to kick stunning points over your head.

Cavan have some excellent defenders in Ciaran Brady, Killian Clarke and Jason McLaughlin but Faulkner looks certain to be the man to track Kilkenny today. He has a big job on his hands but looks well equipped for this challenge. The Kingscourt Stars clubman can play anywhere from full-back to midfield and he is strong and mobile enough to go out the field with Kilkenny. If he can stick with him, he’ll shut down one of Dublin’s most potent threats.

Tactical take


CONTAINMENT alone won’t win the game. Cavan need to attack and produce something different if they are to pull off a shock.

If Dublin have a weakness, it’s in their full-back line and in Thomas Galligan and Conor Madden, Cavan have two forward aces. No full-back line would relish the prospect of handling them in a battle for a high, diagonal ball, dropping out of the floodlights so Cavan will look to be direct and fast and hope their front two can terrorise Michael Fitzsimons, Cooper and Davey Byrne and put a lot of pressure on Stephen Cluxton if the supply is good.

They will pack the middle and when the Dubs have possession pull numbers back but they do take risks and they’ll leave a couple of men on the edge of the Dublin square.

Goalkeeper Raymond Galligan has been superb all year, making vital saves and hitting kick-outs with pin-point accuracy. Dublin will press his restarts so Galligan’s first concern will be to keep the ball away from Brian Fenton and bring Gearoid McKiernan, who may well have James McCarthy for company, into the game.


MEATH began quite well against them in the Leinster final but a fresh tactic from the Dublin training ground proved to be the catalyst for the Royal collapse.

Con O’Callaghan ran in behind his midfield to fetch a typically-accurate Stephen Cluxton kick-out and set in motion a stunning move - Fenton-Scully-Rock - straight through the middle that finished with the ball in the back of the Meath net.

What new surprises do the Dubs have in store today?

They’ll man-mark McKiernan, Ciaran Brady, Thomas Galligan and possibly Martin Reilly but their game is based on winning kick-outs, theirs and yours. Cavan have had a lot of success in midfield this season but the Dublin set-up allows them to surround the ball wherever it lands and makes it extremely difficult fr the opposition to win it cleanly and attack at pace.

The Dubs will be expecting Cavan to go long and direct and they will plan accordingly. Their inside forwards will look to slow the Breffni build-up down and the midfield will tackle and foul to put pressure on the ball and give their defence time to set up and negate the threat of the Cavan inside line if the ball makes it that far up the field.

With the ball in their hands, Dublin have a kicking game and a running game in packs. Paddy Small showed against Meath that they have become adept at using the attacking mark and if it’s not working for Small, then Cormac Costello, Paul Mannion and Brian Howard are among the options on a bench packed with talent.

Man of the Moment

Thomas Galligan (Cavan)

THE inspirational Lacken warrior couldn’t even open his right eye after he’d been cut by a stray Donegal elbow in the first half of Ulster final. Cavan took him off, stitched him up and he went back out to win the Breffni county’s first Ulster title in 23 years.

He scored a point in that and game and three crackers against Down in the semi-final. Tall, strong and fearless, his ball-winning ability around the middle of the field has been a major factor in Cavan’s progression from Ulster alsorans to champions.

Michael Fitzsimons may be the man to pick him up today although Jonny Cooper may go with him if he rotates to the middle third. Brian Howard, who has been a sub this season, is another option. Whoever marks him, Galligan will give them their fill of it.

Who’s the ref?

Ciaran Branagan (Down)

CLONDUFF clubman Branagan is the man in the middle for this evening’s game. Branagan took charge of Dublin’s Leinster semi-final against Laois and is a vastly-experienced official.

Became embroiled in a dispute with the Dubs a couple of years ago when he was shoved by Diarmuid Connolly while acting as a linesman in Dublin’s Leinster quarter-final against Carlow. Connolly was banned for 12 weeks for his action.

Betting box

Dublin 1/50

Cavan 16/1

Draw 33/1

Worth a punt: Con O’Callaghan, first goalscorer 6/1

Weather watch

THERE’S a decent chance of rain this evening and the more the merrier for Cavan. It’ll be chilly too but the wind won’t be a factor.

Last Championship meeting

All-Ireland semi-final, 1942: Dublin 1-6 Cavan 1-3

PADDY ‘Beefy’ Kennedy scored the Dublin goal when these counties last met in the Championship, 78 years ago.

This evening’s match is the latest in a series of All-Ireland semi-finals and the Dubs have won them all so far: 1891 (Dublin 3-7, Cavan 0-3; Clonturk Park), 1920 (Dublin 3-6, Cavan 1-3; Showgrounds in Navan) and 1925 (Dublin 0-6, Cavan 1-1, Croke Park).