Monday 16 December 2019

Donegal too hot to allow Cavan bonfires

Mickey Graham has Cavan playing well
Mickey Graham has Cavan playing well

Just when we'd made our peace with the provincial championships (they're slow-burning, inherently unfair, no longer worth preserving, etc), Roscommon go and win one of those very titles that prompts a county-wide party, bonfires and all.

Cavan, like Roscommon, reside in that very narrow sweet spot as a county with a rich history in Gaelic football but not accustomed enough to provincial success in the modern day to make the experience boring.

So a win for Mickey Graham's team tomorrow would spawn the sort of scenes that demand we stick with the provincial championships for the next century, at the very least.

How plausible is that?

In most other years, you'd give Cavan a chance.

Clearly, they are playing with an energy that all Graham teams demonstrate and a tactical organisation that will make them trickier to beat than has been the case at any stage in the past ten years.

It's just that Donegal are looking so good just now.

So impressive has Michael Murphy's tenure been that you'd be reluctant to say he's in the form of his career, but he is at least as effective now to Donegal's well-being as he was in the heady summer of 2014.

Paddy McBrearty seems to have skipped the seasonal lull most post-cruciate players endure while Jamie Brennan just keeps getting better.


Declan Bonner also has Oisín Gallen to bring back whenever fully fit, a bounty of attacking talent only Dublin and Kerry can plausibly match.

In Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Ryan McHugh, they have two of the most dynamic ball-carriers in the game, capable of transforming a defensive turnover into a goal chance in break-neck time.

And vitally, they have one of the best kick-out strategists in the game just now in Shaun Patton.

Granted, much of that judgement was made against a Tyrone team who abandoned their defensive structure in favour of a more kamikaze approach.

But it was impressive nonetheless.

And the versatility of Murphy is something no other team can match just now.

He is unstoppable at the edge of the square but never spends long enough there to allow a screen and markers to congregate.

He caught four clean kick-outs against Tyrone in the second half of their Ulster semi-final, a dizzying display of primary ball-winning around the middle.

Cavan have the sharpness that two good games against Armagh have provided, but there is a certainty about how Donegal are playing at the minute that no team other than Dublin has demonstrated this summer.

The bonfires will have to wait.

Cavan v Donegal

Clones (Tomorrow, 2.0)


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