Stage is set for county final, Act Two, this Sunday

SFC final replay preview

The stage is set for Gowna vs Ramor United, Act Two, this Sunday (2.30pm, Kingspan Breffni) as the senior finalists go at it again following last Sunday's draw.

Gowna went into the first game as favourites with the bookmakers and they retain that tag, although the odds have been cut slightly after both sides matched each other all the way.

Both will feel they could have won it; Ramor may point to the black card for Adam O'Connell eight minutes before half-time, at a stage when they were 0-7 to 0-4 ahead, as being key in the result but Gowna arguably have a more compelling case based on the number of chances they missed, including three goal chances and four point-scoring opportunities late on.

However, it must be noted that the Ramor United defence was outstanding, with the likes of goalkeeper Liam Brady, Brían O'Connell and the Magee brothers starring.

This would suggest there is more scope for scores in the Gowna side, with their young players possibly buoyed by the experience of playing in their first senior final.

However, Ramor are very much battle-hardened too and are still standing after coming through close contests against Crosserlough, Ballinagh, Cavan Gaels and now Gowna without being beaten.

Gowna had momentum on Sunday when the game was blown up somewhat prematurely – three minutes of added time were announced but approximately half of this was used up as the referee consulted his umpires – but there were no recriminations at the death; it was clear that both sides were relieved to have another crack at it and were happy to take their chances over 60 minutes rather than the lottery of 60 seconds.

Ramor carved out a good goal chance of their own but were off target through captain Ado Cole, who had a fine game at full-forward, and will know that they will likely need to hit the net at least once if they are to get their hands on the Oliver Plunkett Cup for the first time since 2016.

Interestingly, on that occasion, Ramor also won a replay and also finished with a tally of 0-10, as they did in 2019 against Castlerahan when they came up short and again last Sunday.

Ten points is usually not enough to win a county final, although the margins in Cavan finals have been extraordinarily tight. In the last 10 finals, the margins were as follows: draw, one point, one, two, draw, five, one, draw, draw.

There have been four draws in the last decade too and the replays on the previous three occasions have been decided by margins of four, two and five points, so if that trend continues, one side could win with a bit to spare.

That said, it is hard to escape the feeling that this one will go down to the wire again. The teams match up remarkably well; each have a handful of scoring forwards and similar profiles.

Gowna may have a slight edge at midfield where Conor Brady's pace and power is a real platform for them but the feeling is that the Ramor defence is a little more seasoned, although the stats in this championship indicate there is nothing leaky about Gowna either.

Ramor will look to Sean McEvoy, a little subdued by his standards last Sunday, to lead the line while they will hope to get the ball in quicker to the likes of Cole and James Brady, who showed they could gather scores against this Gowna back-line last week.

For Fintan Reilly and Dermot McCabe's side, Conor Madden, held scoreless on Sunday, will need to contribute more on the scoreboard as will his county teammate Oisin Pierson but all players listed have the quality and are likely to shine second time round.

Everything and nothing at all has changed in terms of calling this game. Gowna had scored 16 goals going into last Sunday and will surely manage to hit the net this time. Ramor, for their part, will have learned a lot and will be confident too.

The teams drew when they met in the league earlier this year and again, obviously, last Sunday, which means this Sunday will complete the trilogy. The verdict? It's too close to call with any conviction but, gun to the head, maybe Gowna by a whisker.