Antrim in with a fighting chance

Ulster SFC Quarter-Final

Cavan v Antrim

Kingspan Breffni Park (Saturday 1.15pm)

Underdogs do win games! Ask Raymond Galligan. The Cavan keeper held his nerve to send a massive late free kick from 55 yards between the uprights to send the Breffni Blues into Saturday’s quarter-final and dismiss hot favourites Monaghan for the second year in succession in Clones last Saturday.

Despite last year’s win over the Farney county Cavan went into their meeting with division 1 neighbours Monaghan as outsiders and everything appeared to be going as scripted when Monaghan led by seven points at half time and indeed might have been further ahead but were denied by the heroics of Raymond Galligan and the woodwork.

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The introduction of Thomas Galligan for the second half proved a master stroke as he went on to rival his namesake, Raymond for the man of the match accolade as Cavan went on to outscore Monaghan by 0-9 to 0-2 including a six point unanswered  salvage from the 63d minute that was to prove decisive.

Oisin Kearnan, Gerard McKiernan and Luke Fortune led the Cavan comeback and Thomas Galligan placed Marty Reilly who palmed to the net before that superb Raymond Galligan conversion sent Cavan through to Saturday’s meeting with Antrim.

The underdog role now switches to Lenny Harbison’s Saffrons but that won’t unduly bother the Antrim manager and his side. It is a tag that is usually attached to Antrim and it is how they wear it that is important.

Antrim go into this clash with nothing to lose but on the back of a descent performance against Waterford last day out. That performance will have given them some confidence following a humiliating defeat to Wicklow on their first day back after the lockdown but would not be good enough to trouble Mickey Graham’s side.

The visitors are capable of upping their game however and will need to and they have the players to trouble Cavan if they can put their ‘A’ game together.

Just what Antrim side will start has been difficult to predict this year but there shouldn’t be too many changes from the side that defeated Waterford in Haggardstown two weeks ago.

Ricky Johnston could return to the Antrim defence if fit and Michael McCann should get his first start at mid-field though Antrim could opt to hold him back as an impact sub but I would expect him to start.

McCann brings organisation and structure to a side laced with pace and potential and is one of four players who lined out against Cavan in that famous semi-final victory back in 2009.

His brother Tomas, Paddy Cunningham and Kevin O’Boyle started that day in Clones and this quartet add much needed experience to what is by enlarge, a young side.

Conor Murray missed out against Waterford and is another who could return to the side and the Lamh Dhearg man’s energy and competitive edge would certainly enhance Antrim’s chances while his brother Ryan saw his first action against the Deise and is another who would offer the Saffrons options in attack.

Declan Lynch will captain the side alongside James McAuley who was given an attacking licence last day out and certainly showed his offensive prowess with a goal and an assist though matters may dictate that he will be employed in a more defensive role tomorrow.

Tomas McCann, Odhran Eastwood and Paddy McBride have the pace and scoring ability to trouble most defences while Paddy Cunningham is a proven scorer, both from play or frees.

Whatever formation the Antrim management decide on will need a good start against hot favourites Cavan and produce their best performance of the season and if they can achieve that then they are capable of pushing the home side all the way and cause another upset in this year’s championship.

Remember, underdogs do win games!

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