Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Antrim hope to make a big point against Cavan

The most competitive of the four provincial football championships sees Antrim and Cavan go head to head at Casement Park on Sunday afternoon.

Tyrone, All Ireland winners in 2003 and 2005, start favourites to lift the much sought after Anglo Celt trophy, but Allianz League champions Derry are certain to have other ideas, but travelling to Ballybofey to face Donegal would never have been a preferred option.

Division three winners Fermanagh will relish the prospect of crossing swords with Monaghan in Brewster Park on Sunday week, a game that will mark the official reopening of this superb new pitch.

Bare statistics show Antrim football in a very poor light. No All Ireland senior football titles and their last provincial title was 57 years ago, while you have to go back as far as 1970 for their last Ulster final appearance.

Jody Gormley came in as manager last season and guided them to the Tommy Murphy Cup decider only to lose out in added time.

But then early victories in Division Four and a draw with Offaly suggested better times lay ahead, but then Antrim footballers can always surprise you.

Losing away to Tipperary was bad enough, but coming up short against Waterford was the biggest disaster of all, a defeat that cost them a place in Division Three next season.

Manager Gormley said at the start of the season that he would settle for promotion and that he would regard that as progress, but somewhere along the line you always suspect there are players in the squad always ready to press the self-destruct button.

And you have to feel sorry for the manager. He puts in so much time and effort only to be undermined by lesser individuals.

The hope is that the Saffrons can now seek some kind of redemption in the Championship, but that can only be achieved if they start acting and playing as a team, showing character and maturing both on and off the field.

That's the very least they owe to both their manager and themselves.

As for Cavan they are one of the enigmas of the Ulster Championship. Younger readers will find it hard to believe, but they actually captured the Sam Maguire on five occasions, but the last was all of 56 years ago.

Their most recent Anglo Celt success was 11 years ago when Martin McHugh was manager and prior to that they went 28 years without tasting provincial success.

Last season they exited the Championship after losing to Down in a replay in Newry before bowing out of the qualifiers after losing to Mayo.

Current form doesn't suggest they will make any lasting impact. They were relegated from Division Two, winning just a solitary match.They have an outstanding forward in Seanie Johnston and James Reilly is a quality keeper, but the bottom line is that they lack strength in depth, which means they will always struggle for consistency, which in itself offers Antrim some hope.

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