No home comfort for Cavan as Armagh look like they have forward monentum

Loss of Gearoid McKiernan through injury for Cavan will prove crucial

Quote of the week here is a no-brainer. Asked by The Anglo-Celt about the emphasis on attack that Paul Grimley has encouraged since taking over, Armagh defender Brendan Donaghy was distinctly nonplussed.

“This past couple of years, all-out defence has been our number one tactic. Now, it’s changed to where if a team scores 20 points, we have to score 21. It’s strange. It’s not my cup of tea. But that’s the way it’s going.” Somewhere in south Armagh, Francie Bellew is nodding grimly.

While Donaghy's 41-point Shangri-La can hardly be expected, there is a reasonable chance that this could turn out to be easier on the eye than might be imagined. Cavan are lumped with starting their Ulster campaign from the preliminary round for the sixth time in eight seasons and with the exception of a 1-19 to 1-14 win over Antrim in 2008, the games haven't had much to recommend them. But this go-round finds two youngish team facing off, the winners buying a pass to the handy side of the Ulster draw. Hard to imagine it will be a blow-out either way.

Blessed with a full side, it would be a fairly straight-forward task to give Armagh the nod here. But injury has removed quite a bit of ball-winning ability from their midfield with Grimley unable to call on Charlie Vernon and Kieran Toner and although James Lavery can be relied upon, we can’t say with any certainty just yet that Stephen Harold can too.


Battle for possession
Donaghy has been named at centre-back even though his best position is full-back – you'd imagine this is with the battle for possession around the middle in mind.

Break even or better there and Armagh will surely win. Even with the introduction of 18-year-old Ciarán O'Hanlon for his inter-county debut, they still have more proven firepower in attack than Cavan have in theirs. Jamie Clarke kicked five points (four from play) against Tyrone last year despite constant double coverage.

Whatever plan Cavan have for him – and it looks like Jason McLaughlin will be tasked with the bulk of his care – it’s unfeasible to think they can shut him down. Add in contributions from Stefan Forker, Tony Kernan and Kevin Dyas, plus Brian Mallon and Gavin McParland off the bench, and you can see Armagh putting up a score of 1-16 or thereabouts.

Can you see Cavan bettering it? Possibly. Eugene Keating has made hay against far more fearsome full-back lines than he'll face here and Jack Brady has had another year to settle into his obvious talent.

But Fergal Flanagan appears to be in the side to curb Aaron Kernan's influence and while Martin Dunne has been the revelation of the league, Cavan must feel a little uneasy about heaping the scoring burden onto a championship debutant.

The loss of Gearóid McKiernan feels critical – without him driving from midfield, Cavan’s forwards could be living off scraps.

With no home advantage to speak of – Cavan have an atrocious record at Breffni Park in recent years – it’s hard to make a case for Terry Hyland’s side that’s based in reality as opposed to aspiration.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times