Donegal next in huge double-header
While the men's match between Cavan and Donegal will hog much of the headlines in the coming days, the Cavan ladies have a huge clash of their own as they take on the same opponents on the undercard on Sunday afternoon in St Tiernach's Park (ladies throw-in 1.45pm, men's 4pm).
A huge crowd is expected to descend on Clones for the novel double-header, with the Breffni sides going in as underdogs in both matches, although the mood in the both camps is positive, as ladies star Lauren McVeety explained.
“Donegal were in the Division 1 league final so they are one of the top teams in the country. No doubt about it, we'll be up against it but I think if we get a good performance we'll have every chance,” stated the Crosserlough attacker.
“I think the managements that we've had over the last number of years have all had their own strengths that they've brought to it. Barry and Gerry this year are absolutely excellent, I think I'm speaking on behalf of all the girls when I say that we are all looking forward to training, thinking that we are going to learn something.
“Gerry is excellent at changing things up and keeping us on our toes. It definitely has developed us all as individual players as well as as a team. Obviously, personnel-wise there are a few players who are abroad or who have taken time out due to work commitments and things like that and we have had a few injuries unfortunately but I think overall we're very strong this year.
“It has kind of given a lot of young players a chance to fight for a place. It's very positive really this year.”
McVeety recently turned 21 but is in her fifth season with the county seniors, having broken into the squad as a 17-year-old in 2018.
“At that stage I was brought on in a couple of matches and that was a baptism of fire, it takes a while to get used to the standard of senior football. It was brilliant to get a taste for it that year so that you knew what you were expecting the following year.
“I think it's great to get in early... When you're brought into the senior set-up, it brings you down to earth.
“We were very fortunate at underage to be part of a great team and won quite a bit. I wouldn't say there is a fear, Donegal are an excellent team and we have to respect them but we have to go out with a bit of belief that we are as good on the day and hopefully we'll be able to perform to our standard.
“I think with a lot of the younger players, we were used to winning when we were younger so I think we'll be able to bring that hopefully into this year's championship,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cavan senior manager Mickey Graham is expected to name his team for the crunch clash at the end of the week and should have a full panel to choose from, with Martin Reilly and Ciaran Brady having featured off the bench against Antrim and Oisin Kiernan having returned to full training.
Cavan have recorded just three wins over Donegal in championship football in the last 40 years from 14 meetings, namely the 1997 Ulster semi-final, 2020 Ulster final and a qualifier in 2005, which is probably a factor in Declan Bonner's side being priced at 1/5 with the bookmakers to win in 70 minutes.
However, the vibes from the Cavan set-up are good, with the panel understood to be very focused – eschewing media of late - and training well. There is a sense that this is potentially an era-defining match for both counties, with Cavan seeking to back up their 2020 Ulster Championship success and avoid the Tailteann Cup while Donegal are seen as having under-achieved in recent seasons and are out for revenge.
A battle for the ages is anticipated with Cavan, who have won eight from nine this season albeit against much weaker opposition, expected to run this one very close.