When Cavan Gaels sailed past Antrim champions Lámh Dhearg in their AIB Ulster Club quarter-final they knew they would be meeting Fermanagh's Derrygonnelly Harps.
The Gaels had put a 12 point gap between them and their opponents, but for the Fermanagh outfit it took an extra goal to come out on the right side of a tough battle with Armagh Harps the previous Saturday evening.
As the Cavan town club fine tune for their semi-final clash on Sunday manager Jason O'Reilly spoke to The Anglo-Celt about the forthcoming fixture.
It's going to be a tough encounter for the Cavan side as Derrygonnelly's record of three consecutive county titles (they only have six in their history) suggests a team on a mission. This contrasts with the Gaels who last year were in a relegation battle.
Both teams find themselves in uncharted territory as this phase of the championship and O'Reilly is pleased with the progress: “It's great to be here. At this time of the year things get interesting. Every time you win a game you are moving one step closer to your ultimate goal. It is one step at a time.
“Sunday will be no different and Derrygonnelly will be thinking the same.”
Cavan Gaels are having a stellar year. Their average margin of victory in the county championship is ten points, including victories over their three major rivals – Castlerahan (5pts), Kingscourt (8 pts) and Ramor United (10 pts). This was underscored by their 12 point advantage over Lamh Dhearg in the Ulster quarter-final.
The manager insists that the margins of victory so far will not result in complacency.
“We had a few challenge games at the beginning of the year where we were put to the pin of our collar. You can only beat what is in front of you. We are expecting the day when we are pushed to the limit, and we believe we are prepared for that.”
It is the ultimate team sport cliché, blending youth and experience, but the advantage of being an urban centre is that you have a catchment area that provides a deep panel. Jason feels that the team has capitalised on that asset.
“Some of the older players feel that they have under achieved in the Ulster Club Championship in the past. To the young fellows coming in it is a new experience. That is good, when you are young you don't know what to expect and that can be to your advantage,” he believes.
O'Reilly's forward pedigree does not make him pre-disposed to the importance of an accurate firing squad.
“We have great forwards, but we have exceptional backs. Our forwards will tell you that it is the backs and the midfielders that make the scores for us. The six to seven backs we use have all inter-county experience in the last couple of years. You can flip that as well, the forwards are all inter-county material.”
Notwithstanding the qualities of his own team the Gaels manager is apprised of what to expect from the opposition.
“I was at their quarter-final match. I also know a good few fellows from Fermanagh. We know as much as we want to know and we'll see on Sunday if we've analysed enough. They have big men in the right positions. They have a few good forwards who work very hard. The two Joneses at midfield are very good. There are three or four of their team that we will be looking to curtail,” Jason said.
The manager said that he has a clean bill of health for the team and the next few days will be about sharpening the mind and concentrating on getting the head right.
“It is up to them to get the top four inches right. They have to think of the best performance they can give in a Cavan Gaels jersey on Sunday.”
The AIB Ulster Senior Club Championship semi-final, between Cavan Gaels and Derrygonnelly Harps will throw in at 2pm on Sunday, November 12 in Clones.