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Cavan face biggest test to date against the Royals

Story by Paul Fitzpatrick

Friday, 16th February, 2018 3:23pm

Cavan face biggest test to date against the Royals

Cavan face a big test against Meath this Sunday.

Paul Fitzpatrick

After two postponements in the space of 15 hours last weekend, Cavan and Meath will finally go head to head in round 3 of the Allianz Leagues Division 2 campaign this Sunday at Kingspan Breffni (throw-in, 2pm).
That is, of course, weather permitting, although the forecast is fine, with Met Eireann predicting a positively balmy nine degrees for the Cavan Town area on Sunday afternoon, with zero precipitation.
The week off may not have done Cavan's preparations any harm, ironically. Manager Mattie McGleenan insisted before the league threw in that he would not be throwing any of the estbalished players on the injured list back into the fray until they were “100pc fit and not before it”.
That was a gamble but it has paid off for the Tyrone native, whose side have picked up three points in their opening two matches and have a chance to go top of the table if they can repeat the 2016 win over the Royals.
That victory on the fast Páirc Tailteann surface was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent years. Having lost their opening two matches to Tyrone and Derry and down by seven at half-time, Cavan ran Meath ragged and eventually won, pulling up, by the same margin.
They strung together four successive wins afterwards to secure a long-awaited return to the top flight but if McGleenan could mastermind another promotion this season, it would be an even more noteworthy achievement given the exodus of seasoned, talented players from the squad over the last two years.
Nine of those who featured in the promotion clincher against Galway just under two years ago are currently either injured or not part of the panel, namely Killian Brady, Tomás Corr, Liam Buchanan, David Givney, Michael Argue, Jack Brady, Eugene Keating, Rory Dunne and Chris Conroy.
However, the spine of the team – Galligan, Clarke, Faulkner, McLoughlin, McVeety, McKiernan, Moynagh, Reilly, Mackey et al – remains in place and Sean Johnston recently returned to the panel after an extended break following Cavan Gaels' prolonged run in the Ulster Club.
With the likes of Gearoid McKiernan returning to full flow, it all adds up to a strengthened hand for McGleenan. He stated after the draw with Clare – the form of which was franked when the Banner held Tipperary, conquerors of Cork, to another stalemate last weekend – that the aim is to turn Kingspan Breffni into a fortress. 
That process started well with an impressive win over Louth but a bigger test awaits against the Royals, who, according to Mickey Brennan on these pages last week, have a very potent forward line but could be vulnerable at the back.
The bookmakers struggle to split them, with Andy McEntee's men the slenderest of favourites at 10/11. Cavan certainly impressed last time out but few would argue that Meath would not have slaughtered Louth by a similar margin – the Cork manager bemoaned their own performance as “dreadful” last Sunday after the Rebels beat the wee County by a full seven points.
Still, Cavan could only beat what was put in front of them and nothing builds confidence like winning games. Victory over Meath would go a long way to silencing the doubters and would mark a fantastic month's work for McGleenan and all involved.
No doubt, Cavan – with McVeety and Caoímhín O'Reilly leading the way up front - can win and set up a promotion tilt (just 11 months ago they faced down Mayo away and beat them, remember, when they were written off) but Meath look slightly the safer bet this week.

Verdict: Meath by three

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