Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Once Armagh were into stride, there was only the one winner

Jamie Clarke
Jamie Clarke

It will have come as something of a surprise to a lot of people that Armagh won yesterday afternoon but there is no doubt that their victory was fully merited.

Cavan were being talked up throughout this past couple of weeks and I have to admit that I fancied them to edge it, but Armagh had done their homework.

They were poor in the corresponding fixture in Breffni Park 12 months ago and they weren't going to make the same mistakes again.

They learned their lessons from that day and there is no doubt you could see the influence that Kieran McGeeney has had on them.

They were more like the Armagh of old in that they were difficult to break down and they didn't leave themselves as wide open as they have done in the past.

They came in under the radar for this game given their dismal league campaign and that suited them down to the ground.

As I know from experience it doesn't matter what way Armagh are going you are always going to get a difficult game against them, especially in the tight surrounds of the Athletic Grounds.

Cavan on the other hand won promotion to division two and were aiming to build on the progress that they made last year but it just didn't happen for them on the day.

They came so close to beating Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final last season and after winning four Ulster U21s in a row they were hoping to make the next step up but it doesn't work as easily as that. Just ask Galway who continue to struggle at senior level despite the success that they have enjoyed at All-Ireland level in U21s this past decade.

Cavan began the game well but once Armagh got into their stride I felt there was going to be only one winner.

Jamie Clarke, Charlie Vernon and Ciaran McKeever are all quality players and when it was needed they again produced for Armagh.

They will take a lot of confidence from this win and their supporters will really get behind them now.

This result will have been also welcome for Paul Grimley as he would have been under a lot of pressure had they lost.

They now face a derby game against either Monaghan or Armagh and, while they will go into that game as underdogs, they will relish the challenge as they have nothing really to lose.

It's difficult to know were Cavan go from here.

They were hit with injuries to McKernan and Mackey while Clarke's decision to go to America didn't help their preparations either.

They were looking to make the breakthrough in Ulster this year but it's back to the drawing board and the qualifiers for them and they will need a couple of favourable draws to get back on track.

Looking ahead to next weekend's quarter final I fancy Tyrone to beat Monaghan. The roles are reversed as when these sides normally met in the Ulster championship it was Tyrone who were the champions.

It will be interesting to see how Monaghan cope with the pressure of trying to defend the title.

They haven't beaten Tyrone in the championship since 1988 and their supporters will have added expectations after last year, especially as the game is in Clones.

The will badly miss the influential Conor McManus and I just think Tyrone will edge it.

They have two tough games with Down under their belts and Mickey will have had time to iron out the weaknesses from those two displays and that could well prove vital.

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