Cavan’s tendency to fade in the second half gives Monaghan a chance of reaching the Ulster final
Terry Hyland’s side have been impressive but their failure to put teams away could cost them
Monaghan’s Darren Hughes will pose a threat to Cavan’s defence tonight. Photograph: Alan Betson
There was a time when this was one of the great GAA rivalries. Up until Tyrone and Armagh started farming the Ulster Championship between them from the end of the 1990s, Cavan and Monaghan would always puff themselves up as the leaders on the Ulster roll of honour. But even then, it was the very definition of faded gloss – Cavan’s last Ulster title was in 1997, Monaghan’s in 1988. Between them, they’ve won just four in total since the beginning of the 1970s.
Still, the prize this evening is not to be sniffed at and an Ulster final would raise the pulse of either county. Cavan have been impressive, unquestionably the form side of this half of the draw. Whatever about the open invitation to roam freely that they were handed by Armagh, they showed against Fermanagh they were able to come through a dust-up just as well.
Their blanket defence is supremely well-drilled and they gang-tackle with ruthless efficiency at times.
But they’ve been dominated at midfield in both their matches so far – they are 35-62 for kick-outs – and they’ve lapsed into conceding kickable frees as they tired against Armagh and Fermanagh.
If they keep that trend up against Monaghan, Paul Finlay and Conor McManus will punish them heavily from frees.
Monaghan are favourites here on a flimsy enough pretext – their Division Three final victory over Meath was a gloriously open game.
Monaghan will try to get Stephen Gollogly and Darren Hughes coming onto Cavan’s defensive wall across their 45. Cavan’s tendency to drift out of games will be punished by a better team. The question is whether or not Monaghan are that team. They get a tentative vote that says so, but only just.