Cavan aim for Rebel win to set up promotion tilt


The Cavan senior footballers have a chance to make it two wins from three in Division 2 of the National League when they make the long trip south to Pairc Uí Chaoímh to take on Cork tomorrow (Saturday, 4pm).

While Cork are favourites (4/6), Cavan will travel with a degree of confidence, having won the opening round against Kildare and run Donegal to a point last time out.

The Rebels have been at a low ebb by their standards for some years now. Last year, they finished in sixth position in Division 2, winning just two games, but after being knocked out of the Munster Championship by Clare, their form improved markedly as they lost by two points to Kerry and beat Mayo, Louth and Roscommon to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they fell to Derry.

A noticeable trend with Cork is that, when they are beaten, they tend to struggle for scores. Going back to their shock Munster final loss to Tipperary in 2020 when they only scored 1-9, they have rarely put together an impressive scoring tally in the biggest matches.

In the 2021 Munster final, they scored 1-9. In 2022, they registered 0-12 in their Munster exit against Kerry and in three of their league losses last year, they scored 0-10, 0-7 and 1-10. The Rebels put up 0-13 in their Munster loss to Clare last year and 1-8 in their All-Ireland quarter-final defeat so it seems that their attack can be held and that is an area which Cavan manager Ray Galligan, despite his assertion that he hopes to see his side play attacking football, is sure to focus on.

The general sense was that Cork were on the rise again after their mid-championship resurgence last year but their recent losses to Donegal and Louth, in which they scored 2-6 and 0-13 respectively, have undermined such claims.

Cavan beat Cork in the sides’ last meeting (0-14 to 0-11, NFL round 2 in 2018 at Páirc UÍ Chaoímh) but it must be noted that while Cork’s form in recent years has been patchy at best, they have tended to mix in better company than Cavan, who were marooned in the lower divisions for the last three seasons.

Cavan will hope to welcome back Oisin Brady and Conor Brady into the fold, although it may be too soon for the Gowna man to earn a starting berth. Cian Madden, a starter last season, should be in contention, having been named on the bench last time out against Donegal.

Galligan has favoured an experienced line-up in his first two outings as manager, with Oisin Kiernan (Denn) and Ryan Donohoe (Gowna) the only relative rookies to earn a start thus far – and both were involved in the senior squad under Mickey Graham last season.

The main areas of concern emerging from the Donegal game were that Cavan struggled to get to grips with visiting sharp shooter Oisin Gallen and found it hard to win primary possession at midfield at some stages, particularly in the second half, which may necessitate some positional changes; in terms of personnel to come in from the bench, options appear to be limited in both sectors.

From the outset, it was felt that staying in the division would be a positive for Cavan but the win over Kildare has raised expectations, as did the competitive showing against a vaunted Donegal. A win for Cavan would set up a tilt at promotion, with what look like potentially winnable matches against Louth, Meath and Fermanagh in particular still to come.

The Cavan squad will travel on Friday and stay overnight in Cork ahead of the clash. Meanwhile, the Cavan senior ladies are away to Westmeath on Sunday (Cusack Park, 2pm) while the hurlers have a week off before travelling to take on Mayo.