There are rare occasions when you wish your gut instinct might be wrong. For example, in relation to Neil Robertson’s propensity to find ways not to win the World Snooker Championship. Ditto Rory McIlroy with the US Masters.
However, thankfully it’s a case of as you were regarding inclinations in this seat that Armagh will be the team to beat in Ulster this term. Aside from the magnificent individual display by Conor Turbitt, the biggest statement made by Kieran McGeeney’s side was their ability to adapt to being without the fulcrum of their team, Rian O’Neill.
Although ironically, the Crossmaglen Rangers star not only entered the fray ten minutes into the second half, his biggest contribution was actually in clearing a Tiarnan Madden goal attempt off the Armagh line. Reason for mentioning O’Neill’s initial absence is that thanks to Turbitt’s brilliance the Orchard County more or less won by half time. Especially with the aid of a goal from midfielder Ben Creeley.
Now, whether in fact McGeeney is capable of having – or at least displaying – the emotion known as happiness is a bit of a mystery, but he is unlikely to have been best pleased with the ease and regularity with which Cavan were able to create chances.
He can be thankful that (a) Cavan wouldn’t hit a barn door at ten yards, and (b) referee Niall Falloon was more than kind to them on a couple of occasions. He could very easily have shown Greg McCabe a red card for his challenge on Raymond Galligan, and would have been within his rights to chalk off Creeley’s goal as well,
However, no secret has ever been made of the fondness the occupant of this seat has for Armagh and – most specifically in this instance – the style of football the tend to employ. The original and best – high fielding and long diagonal kicking. What the new ‘experts’ call “Wrong” football.
And who’s to say they don’t deserve a bit of luck having been at the butt of the unfortunate creation of GAA history when they lost out to Galway in a penalty shootout last season.
As for Cavan, it would be very easy to say they blew their own chance, and to a large extent they did. Mind you, that there is a genuine gulf between operating in the top division in the National League and being on the third rung of the same ladder.
Purely in terms of speed of thought, and play. There was one particular phase of play in the second period when Ethan Rafferty went on one of his now routine rambles up field before delivering a truly exquisite long ball to Turbitt who duly split the posts once again. Two kicks of the ball to a score. There are very few teams capable of doing doing that these days. That makes a whole other statement about where the game currently is but it can wait for another day.
Having said all of the above, Cavan are still a team with forward propulsion in their favour. Furthermore, it’s a certainty that nobody will fancy drawing the Breffni blues in the Tailteann Cup. Therein lies the one major positive in the GAA’s summer competitions as they now stand – Armagh continue on the motorway, and while Mickey Graham’s charges are currently in on the hard shoulder, the will soon refuel and embark on the road less travelled.
A plethora of other teams get the sat-navs out today. To be continued…