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blues' battle Dublin v Cavan will be a difficult game for me - two Breffni fans I loved dearly will be watching from heaven


Con O’Callaghan of Dublin is happy to track back. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Con O’Callaghan of Dublin is happy to track back. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile


Con O’Callaghan of Dublin is happy to track back. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Next Saturday night will be a very difficult one for me. Two people I loved very dearly will be watching the All-Ireland football semi-final from heaven and I know what shade of blue they will be cheering for.

My wife Grainne and her Dad Frank Corrigan surely kicked every ball with the Cavan lads last Sunday in Armagh and they will do the same next weekend.

Frank was the archetypal Cavan football supporter and he would have revelled in this.

All next week he would be giving me woeful grief about what the pride of Breffni would do to the Dubs. No better man for it. The pair of them will fill my mind as I sit down to watch the match.

But at the last whistle I suspect all I would have had for Grainne and Frank at the end was no words, but a wry grin that said "I told you so".

Much as I respect what Cavan have done in the last four weeks of Ulster football action, I can see only one outcome to the meeting of Dublin and Cavan at Croke Park in six days' time and that is a decent Dublin win.

Why, because unless the weather is utterly foul and thus scores are hard to come by, Cavan are going to need to put something like 2-14 on the scoreboard to have a chance.

And they are going to find 2-14 seriously hard to come by against a Dublin defence that just does not get enough credit.

Individually, and as a unit, these men are tough, organised, hungry and simply will not let you get a shot off without two or three Dublin players hounding you.


Cavan players celebrate

Cavan players celebrate


Cavan players celebrate

How do they manage that? Thanks, in part, to the work rate of their more-heralded colleagues in midfield and in the forwards.

We take it for granted now that any, and all, of Brian Fenton, James McCarthy, Michael Darragh Macauley and newcomer Tom Lahiff will range up and down the pitch supporting whatever Dublin player needs help.

But this season, even the star forwards are putting in a serious defensive shift.

Against Westmeath in Portlaoise, Ciaran Kilkenny tidied up a dangerous situation for Dublin on his own end line.

Last weekend in Croker, I saw Con O'Callaghan make an interception against Meath just five yards from the Dublin goal.

These lads are putting in the effort, because it has not gone unnoticed that Brian Howard and Paul Mannion, 2019 All-Stars, are not on the starting XV.

I don't expect them to start on Saturday night either. Dessie Farrell will go with the players who have served him well so far in this strangest of seasons and make changes only when and if they are needed.

I've a lot of time for Mickey Graham, the Cavan manager. He showed what he could do with Mullinalaghta in their famous journey to a Leinster club title and with Cavan he has not been found wanting either, when it comes to delivering a little tactical nuance.

Last weekend, he left one of Cavan's best players, Conor Madden, out of his starting team for the Ulster Final, bringing him on as a blood sub a few times, and then bringing him on at the end to get the winning goal.

He also detailed a corner-back, Jason McLoughlin, to come up and man-mark Ryan McHugh, one of Donegal's best players. So what can he come up with now for Saturday night?

Can he solve the puzzle that has beaten so many other good managers?

If you don't press Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs, he will chip-shot the ball to one of his full-back line and Dublin will trust their skills to move the ball up the pitch and create a scoring chance.

If you do go man-to-man with the Dublin defence Cluxton will go long.

Dublin won't win every ball in that scenario, and some they do win will be 'dirty' ball giving Cavan time to get organised and defend in numbers.

But, off those long kick-outs, three or four times, Dublin will take a clean catch in midfield and turn to instigate an attack. Think of Brian Howard in last year's drawn All-Ireland Final, or O'Callaghan against Meath last week.

Then you have the horror scenario, for any opposing defence, of a Dublin man carrying the ball towards your goal at speed, and your defence is now trying to go one-on-one with the most lethal attack in the game. Goals usually follow.

Cavan will believe in themselves, no doubt. The problem is that, to fashion a famous win, they have to be within about five points of Dublin at the second half water-break and then they still have to outlast the fittest team around. I just can't see it all happening.

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