GAA Football

Ulster SFC: Antrim v Cavan analysis - tactical take, key battle, turning point...

Antrim were left facing an uphill battle after the second half dismissal of the experienced Michael McCann. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Brendan Crossan and Neil Loughran at Corrigan Park

TACTICAL TAKE

Antrim

WITH regular full-back Ricky Johnston absent, Antrim had a problem trying to match up Paddy Lynch. The Antrim management team opted for Peter Healy. Eoghan McCabe might have had more muscle to upset Lynch. As it was, Healy and McCabe didn’t have a lot of protection in front of them in the first half and only for Cavan’s wastefulness, Antrim should have been much further behind in the opening exchanges. They remedied this after the break, but were still leaking scores.

Apart from a brilliant break from Ryan Murray that led to Mick McCann’s first-half point, Antrim zig-zagged too much without making a lot of headway and were short on attacking ideas. They really struggled with Raymond Galligan’s kick-outs too and looked a little lost at times, which made the Cavan goalkeeper’s job in the second half much easier than it should have been.

Cavan

CAVAN attacked with a nice fluidity but their shooting was woeful in the opening 10 minutes. They were very good at rotating their midfielders and full-forwards at times. Cian Madden did damage from deep positions in the opening half, while Mickey Graham’s match-ups made a lot of sense, with possibly Jason McLoughlin versus Ryan Murray the only one that didn’t work out. Gerard Smith, as per usual, got on a lot of ball and hit three points.

Once Antrim placed a sweeper in the second half they had the presence of mind to run the ball and shoot accurately from distance, although Paddy Lynch was like Velcro when they did kick it in. Physically, this clash was a bit of a mismatch, while they also showed they have a few players on the bench who can improve them. Cavan were bigger, stronger and much smarter than their hosts.

KEY BATTLE

Peter Healy (Antrim) v Paddy Lynch (Cavan)

FIRST things first – Ricky Johnston would have been the man on Paddy Lynch had he been available. Physically, he was the obvious match for the Crosserlough man but, in his absence, Enda McGinley handed that brief to captain Peter Healy.

It proved an unenviable task, and that is not to apportion too much blame in the direction of the St Enda’s man. With little protection for the full-backs, Cavan found it all too easy to move Antrim around, while Lynch’s clever movement in and out of the square – allied to a considerable height advantage when the ball was coming in – meant he was the focal point of all their best attacking work.

Finished with eight points to his name, including a couple from play, but had a hand in several other Cavan scores as the Breffnimen took over early in the second half.

TURNING POINT

ANTRIM were lucky to go in only a point down at the break after a wasteful first half display from Cavan.

Yet when a Conor Murray free levelled it up at 0-7 apiece two minutes into the first half, you began to wonder whether they could kick on and grab some semblance of control.

Instead, though, the Breffnimen – with the breeze at their backs – reeled off four points in five minutes without reply to leave the Saffrons with a mountain to climb. The loss of Michael McCann to a red card didn’t help matters, but by that stage Antrim were chasing a lost cause as Cavan stretched out their lead down the straight.

TOP SCORE

RYAN Murray nailed a cracking score with his trusty left boot right in front of the bank just before half-time to give the Corrigan crowd something to shout about, but the only goal of the game was a well-worked piece of play from some classy operators. Cavan stalwart Martin Reilly, fresh from the bench, showed he wasn’t lacking any sharpness with a wonderful piece of quick thinking to find Paddy Lynch from a sideline. Holding off Peter Healy, Lynch hand-passed into the path of Gearoid McKiernan who checked back onto his left foot before slotting past Michael Byrne.

REF WATCH

Jerome Henry (Mayo)

A BIT fussy at times in a game that didn’t really require it. Dermot McAleese walked a thin line at times in the first half after picking up an early yellow, with the ref giving him the benefit of the doubt. Team-mate Michael McCann wasn’t so fortunate – his first yellow appeared to come after an exchange of words with the Mayo whistler, before an over-zealous challenge on Paddy Lynch saw the Cargin man walk.

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