Preview: A must-win game, for different reasons


Both Cavan and Fermanagh come into tomorrow's clash needing to win but for different reasons.

The Erne men, after a strong start, have seen their form tail off in recent weeks and are in a relegation battle. They need to beat Cavan and hope Kildare can defeat Louth in Carlow if they are to survive in the division.

Fermanagh suffered a heavy loss against the Wee County last weekend, shipping four goals in the first half. Only Monaghan have conceded more in the four divisions which will be disappointing for the Fermanagh team and management, who have prided themselves on being very hard to break down in the past.

Cavan, who travelled to the Athletic Grounds hoping to close in on promotion, also had a rude awakening and were well beaten by a very impressive Armagh. Should Cavan fail to win tomorrow, they will go into the championship without a win in their previous three games, having also drawn with Meath in round five.

That situation would be far from ideal with a local derby coming up against Monaghan in Clones in a fortnight’s time.

Cavan were missing some key men last week, notably joint-captain Padraig Faulkner, Jason McLoughlin and Gerard Smith and that trio may not be risked this evening.

While the counties are familiar foes over the last dozen years and more, Cavan have tended to have the upper hand, although Fermanagh had a super win in round seven last year at the same venue and also beat Cavan by a point in the opening round of the league in 2021 just months after current manager Ray Galligan lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup.

“We’re all very disappointed with our performance and obviously the result. Definitely, we have to go back to the drawing board and regroup,” Galligan said after the Armagh loss.

“We just didn’t come out of the traps. We thought we were ready, we thought we were going to get a really good positive start. A number of areas just malfunctioned, the breeze was strong, we got it very hard to get out of our defence, we got it very hard to win possession on kick-outs. Look, when you’re not getting primary possession on your own kick-outs, you’re giving the opposition oxygen. That gave them a really good start and a path into getting the result.

“We expected Armagh to press us high, we were prepared for that, and look, we didn’t get primary possession, we obviously didn’t make enough movement to give Gary a little more options. It’s a tough place to be for Gary today but he’s been really good for us over the last number of weeks and there’s been a lot more positive performances from that bunch of players.

“We’ve just got to dust ourselves down, regroup and look forward to next weekend.”

Cavan were back in action on Monday with a useful work-out in a challenge game against Dublin in Whitehall Colmcilles.

Cavan fielded mostly panel players on the day with three of Saturday’s team lining out while the Dubs had half a dozen regulars and won by 5-16 to 2-22.

It is likely that some of those players will feature this evening and Galligan will hope they give him some selection headaches for the trip to St Tiernach’s Park on April 7.

“We need to improve, we’re fully aware of that,” the Lacken clubman said.

“Obviously that’s very disappointing today the way we performed so we’re going to be looking for a reaction but no doubt Fermanagh will be too, they had a tough weekend as well as ourselves so both teams will be out to prove themselves and improve. We look forward to it.”

Cavan beat Fermanagh in the Division 3 league final at Croke Park last year and while the Armagh loss stung, the supporters would have to be happy with securing Sam Maguire qualification (barring major upsets in the provincial championships) and comfortably consolidating in the division.

It’s important that Cavan bounce back and show some good form this evening but there will be nothing easy against Kieran Donnelly’s men; there never is.

A close game is expected as both sides look to earn the local bragging rights.