Can Cavan upset the odds this Sunday?
As the football championship is finally begins to heat up, one of the most intriguing clashes of Quarter-Final weekend is the meeting of Kerry and Cavan this Sunday. The most successful counties in Munster and Ulster respectively, in somewhat of a revival mode after some years in the doldrums.
By their own high standards, Kerry, the county with the most All-Ireland titles (36) by a country mile, have been in somewhat of a dry spell – no All-Ireland title since 2009, and their team appearing to be in transition, with a slew of recent retirements. And yet, things looked an awful lot worse in March after they’d lost their opening 4 matches of the National League, with relegation looking more like a reality than a possibility.
However, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men dragged 3 wins from their last 3 games, and an unlikely sequence of events saw them narrowly escape relegation at the expense of All-Ireland champions Donegal. Their Championship campaign has been comfortable, if not impressive; a trouncing of witless Waterford in the opening round, a comfortable victory over toothless Tipperary in the semi’s, and a hard-fought win against bitter rivals Cork in the Munster final. New players have emerged through the ranks to impress, and Anthony Maher has continued to develop into an outstanding midfielder for the Kingdom alongside hard-man Johnny Buckley. Colm Cooper is as omni-present as ever in attack, and his contribution will be vital to the Southerners on Sunday.
For Cavan, it’s been an outstanding Championship 2013. Given their 6th place finish in Division 3 of the National League, little was expected of the most successful county in Ulster football. However, a surprise win over Division 2 outfit Armagh, followed by a narrow victory over Fermanagh set the Breffni county up nicely for an Ulster semi-final clash with Monaghan, where they were beaten by the narrowest of margins; 1-10 to 0-12. Monaghan then went on to defeat All-Ireland champions Donegal in the Ulster final, a mark perhaps of how good Cavan are at the moment?
Cavan were hurtled into Round 3 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers, where they drew fellow Ulstermen Derry. A high scoring game in Celtic Park in Derry saw them triumph 1-22 to 0-20. The Round 4 draw was kind to Cavan, drawing them against surprise Connacht finalists London, whom they easily dispatched 1-17 to 1-8 to set up this tie against the Kingdom.
In a sense, this is the best draw for both teams. Cavan have done well so far in their five matches, but they have played four Ulster teams and then London. They’ve yet to encounter a Division 1 team, and Armagh on the first day out were their only Division 2 opposition to date. By League rankings, they barely enter the Top 20 counties in Ireland, and most Division 1 and 2 teams should make light work of them. However, don’t rule out a shock return to the All-Ireland Semi-Final stage for the northerners for the first time since 1997, where Kerry squeezed them out on their way to the title.
On the other hand, Kerry are thought by most to be among the weakest of the 4 provincial champions. Monaghan have defeated All-Ireland champions Donegal to get to the quarter-finals, Dublin have been imperious all year, Mayo likewise in the west. They scraped past Cork in the Munster final, and for many, this is a team in transition. However, the Donaghy-Cooper combination in attack has won them 4 All-Irelands in the past 10 years, and with “Star” and “Gooch” both fit again, a slew of promising new talent supporting an experienced attack, and their midfield gelling nicely, there are an increasingly loud clamour of voices predicting glory for the Kingdom in 2013. It’s hard to see them being beaten at this stage anyway.
Prediction: Kerry by 8 points
Kerry: 1.Brendan Kealy (Kilcummin); 2.Fionn Fitzgerald (Dr Crokes); 3.Marc S (An Gaeltacht) 4.Shane Enright (Tarbert); 5.Tom s S (An Gaeltacht) 6.Killian Young (Renard); 7.Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers) 8.Anthony Maher (Duagh); 9.Johnny Buckley (Dr Crokes) 10.Paul Galvin (Finuge); 11.Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes)(Capt) 12.Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane); 13.Declan O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) 14.Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks); 15.Darran O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar)
Cavan: 1. Alan O’Mara (Bailieborough Shamrocks); 2. Thomas Corr (Denn); 3. Rory Dunne (Redhills); 4. Killian Clarke (Shercock); 5. Jason McLoughlin (Shannon Gaels); 6. Alan Clarke (Kingscourt) Captain; 7. Ronan Flanagan (Castlerahan); 8. Damien O’Reilly (Belturbet); 9. David Givney (Mountnugent); 10. Cian Mackey (Castlerahan); 11. Jack Brady (Ramor United); 12. Feargal Flanagan (Butlersbridge); 13. Martin Reilly (Killygary); 14. Martin Dunne (Cavan Gaels); 15. Eugene Keating (Saint Sylvesters)
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