Football

Test for Cavan’s credentials as Donegal come to town

Both sides earned comfortable victories last weekend against Kildare and Cork respectively

Back in action: Ryan McHugh of Donegal has been a huge boost to Jim McGuinness this season. Pictures Oliver McVeigh
Allianz Football League Division Two, round two
Cavan v Donegal (Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, 4pm)

Donegal and Jim McGuinness may have had the perfect start to their Division Two campaign with a convincing win over a pretty poor Cork side, but tomorrow’s clash with Cavan could be quite a different matter in Breffni.

For, like Donegal, the Breffni Blues are coming off the back of a fine away win over Kildare in their opener.

There has been a bit of premature euphoria in the county since the return of the ‘Messianic’ McGuinness and that has been heightened by the fine victory over the Rebels.

But there are some Donegal fans who well remember Cavan giving the county a collective black eye by deservedly turning them over in ‘the Covid’ Ulster final of 2020.

Cavan manager Mickey Graham celebrates with Padraig Faulkner after winning the 2020 Ulster SFC Final.<br /> Picture Seamus Loughran
Anglo Celt cup: Cavan manager Mickey Graham celebrates with Padraig Faulkner after winning the 2020 Ulster SFC Final.
Picture Seamus Loughran

And while Cork looked very open at times last week, the Cavan defence, well marshalled by Padraig Faulkner, can be notoriously mean.

Like Donegal, they have got quite a bounce from their new manager and ex keeper – the eloquent and charismatic Raymond Galligan.

Tomorrow’s affair is more likely to be of the dogged Ulster variety, but it must be said that Donegal’s high-press on their opponents’ kick outs has been hugely successful so far and shows some of the soccer influence in McGuinness’s thinking.

But that type of game demands huge energy and the question is can it be sustained for a season?

Of more comfort to McGuinness is the fact that they won last week with quite a few newcomers who all showed up well in the absence of Oisin Gallen, Michael Langan, Jason McGee, Hugh McFadden, Stephen McMenamin, Shaun Patton, Niall O’Donnell, Caolan Ward, Caolan McColgan and Conor O’Donnell – all pretty experienced performers.

Having nine players of that calibre to come back is sure to be a big filip as they head to Breffni with a spring in their step.

In their absence, experienced heads like Ryan McHugh, Caolan McGonagle and Ciaran Thompson have been exerting their influence.

Daire O’Baoill was a late starter but he made a huge impact as did the accuracy of Odhran Doherty and the searing pace of Peadar Mogan.

Paddy McBrearty seems to have really shaken off the major injury which curtailed so much of his contribution last year while Allstar nominee Brendan McCole has really grown into the full-back slot.

The county is lucky that it has two top-class keepers in Shaun Patton and Gavin Mulreany. Both are playing the ever-so-common ‘Gaelic Roulette’ so favoured by coaches and keepers all over the land, though Mulreany was badly caught out for Cork’s second goal last week.

Killian Clarke, Oisin Kernan, Dara McVeety and top scorer Paddy Lynch will present quite a threat to Donegal, and nd it is unlikely that Caolan McGonagle and the excellent Ciaran Moore will be allowed to dominate midfield as they did last week.

On the basis that Donegal have a greater scoring threat and a better bench they are given a tentative nod to win narrowly.