GAA Football

Breffni Blues out to extend unbeaten run against luckless Saffrons

Cavan's Paddy Lynch and Down's Darren O'Hagan in action during the GAA football All-Ireland Senior Championship Tailteann Cup round one between Cavan and Down at Kingspan Breffni in Cavan.Pic Phiip Walsh
Shaun Casey

Mickey Graham’s unbeaten Cavan travel to Corrigan Park today with the intentions of extending their winning streak to six on the trot. Cavan have dismissed any challenges put in their way so far and deservingly sit at the top of the Division Three table.

Even in the unlikely event that the Breffni Blues lose their next two outings, with Fermanagh coming up after Antrim, it’s almost impossible that they won’t reach the league final and secure promotion to Division Two.

And Cavan appear to only being getting stronger. In their most recent victory over Down two weeks ago, Gearóid McKiernan and James Smyth were introduced as second half substitutes and could be in from the start today.

Two Paddy Lynch goals proved the difference that day, in Cavan’s 2-14 to 1-10 victory, and the Crosserlough sharpshooter has been in outstanding form of late. He finished with 2-5 against Down, bringing his tally for the year to 2-19.

Only John Heslin of Westmeath has scored more than Lynch in Division Three and he is the main scoring force in the Cavan team while Dara McVeety is another who has been performing brilliantly.

Antrim on the other hand head into this game off the back of a 31-point drumming from Westmeath in round five. The Saffrons hover just above the relegation zone and are under serious pressure to ensure they stay in the division.

Antrim spent a number of years trying to escape the clutches of Division Four, and finally climbed out of the basement division in 2021 under the guidance of Enda McGinley. So, to go back down in Andy McEntee’s first season would be a massive blow.

And really, Antrim shouldn’t find themselves in this situation at all. Had things gone their way and with a little bit of luck, in the earlier rounds, they could well be looking up rather than down.

Twice Andy McEntee’s men were hit with last minute goals, against Down and Fermanagh, when they looked to have secured maximum points but were forced to leave empty handed.

Antrim were much the better team in Pairc Esler against Conor Laverty’s Mourne men and with bustling full forward Ruairi McCann nabbing two goals, it looked to be their day. But Down edged ahead just in time to win the game.

It was a case of déjà vu against Fermanagh when Sean Quigley plundered home a late goal to snatch victory away from Antrim once again. They could, and maybe should, be on six points, but instead, they’re third in the table with two.

And things aren’t getting any easier. Today is a repeat of last year’s Ulster Championship opener, back in the same venue, and a different result would be a big surprise. Cavan claimed a 1-20 to 0-10 victory and if anything, have only pushed on since then.

Antrim won’t be going in just to make up the numbers of course and their backs are against the wall, so expect a reaction. But it’s probably not going to be enough, and they’ll need a miracle to overturn the 2020 Ulster Championship.