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GAA: The inside track and analysis on the big game

By Declan Bogue

Our Gaelic Games correspondent tackles all the battles in the big game between Armagh v Cavan in the Ulster SFC Q-final, Athletic Gds (Sun 4.00pm).

Head to head

Kevin Dyas v Feargal Flanagan

If Jason McLoughlin is the man who picks up all the dangerous forwards in the inside line, Flanagan is the man who puts the shackles on further out the field.

In 2012 he performed this role against Fermanagh's Shane McCabe to great success and his fitness, anticipation and ability to dispossess means he will follow the opposition's most creative presence.

Throughout the league, Armagh tended to go with four forwards right along their half-forward line and there is a clear hint they will repeat that here, forcing Cavan's defensive hand somewhat by pushing Ethan Rafferty onto sweeper Alan Clarke.

Dyas will lie a bit deeper to pick up possession that he will look to bring forward and begin attacks. The former AFL player is one of the most influential players in the Armagh team.

James Morgan v Martin Dunne

Cavan's system last year was crystallised in their pre-game change to the match-day programme. Jack Brady, named to start at centre-forward, was replaced by Killian Brady, adding another body to the defence, leaving more room inside for Martin Dunne to terrorise Paul McKeown.

With the entire attack withdrawn, Dunne could bound about in the freedom of Breffni Park and while McKeown is a proven footballer for Crossmaglen, no defender could survive in those conditions.

Morgan has been identified as the one who can cope with Dunne. He was injured in a car crash and has had a long recovery, but he can humble top attacking talent.

Jamie Clarke v Jason McLoughlin

Last year McLoughlin tagged the opposition's most creative or else dangerous forwards and has an uncanny knack of dispossessing or else intercepting balls through a sharp anticipations and without having to lean in on his opponent, allowing him to spring forward and begin attacks.

He was put on Clarke last year and although he marred his day's work with a yellow card, he would have been overjoyed with rendering one of the best forwards in the country scoreless. Clarke has been adding to his game behind the scenes all year, but apart from a lethal evening of 11 points (eight from frees) against Meath, he has had a frustrating time of it. However, he is only as good as the quality of the ball coming into him.

Team tactics

Cavan only conceded two goals all league, but Armagh leaked ten of them. That is something that has surely occupied the minds of the Orchard managerial brains trust.

Another blight on Armagh's league campaign, which ended miserably with relegation to the third tier, was their habit of poor starts.

Only against Down and Laois were they actually ahead on the scoreboard at half-time, and it should be flagged up that the Down game was destroyed by stormy winds that favoured Armagh in the first half, yet they still found a way to lose that game.

While the motto last year was ‘Attack, Attack, Attack’, Armagh will know that such an approach again will constitute hari-kari. Already, there has been clear departures in playing style with kick-passes already all but completely banned.

Instead, Armagh will attempt to treat possession as God in a manner similar to Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare sides.

The main threats

During Tommy Carr and Val Andrews' time in charge, they were far too easily penetrated for goals, and so when the job was handed to Terry Hyland he instantly recruited Anthony Forde with a brief to build from the back.

A keen tactician who draws from other sports, Forde has transformed Cavan into the meanest defence in the land, conceding an average score of just 10 points per league game before the final. They conceded only two goals throughout the league, both in their games against Roscommon.

With Cian Mackey and Martin Reilly dropping back they will keep loads of cover in their defence. Last year, Killian Brady was a late replacement for Jack Brady — a defender for a forward. That might happen again here.

Eugene Keating provided Martin Dunne with the ammunition to hit eight points from play, and that forward link-up will be a threat. Watch also for the introduction of Kevin Tierney, Michael Argue and John Hayes.

The man in the middle

Marty Duffy (Sligo)

He waved away Cavan appeals late in last year's Ulster semi-final when Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan over-ran the ball. Had he correctly awarded a close-in free, it would have finished a draw.

Belfast Telegraph


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