Shane Stapleton and football coach Steven Poacher look ahead to the Ulster SFC final bout between Cavan and Donegal, how the Breffni came back to beat Down, and the men from the hills dismantling Armagh.
BY JACK NEVILLE
Despite some incredible comebacks in recent weeks, Steven Poacher insists Cavan must start better this Sunday or face a drubbing in the Ulster SFC final against Donegal.
The Breffni men have completed incredible comebacks against both Monaghan and Down in previous rounds, but the Tir Conaill men will likely represent a much stiffer test.
“If Cavan don’t start well, they will get blown out of the water,” says Down minor coach Poacher.
“In my honest opinion, you’re dealing with a team that has been in nine of the last ten Ulster finals, a team with All-Ireland winning aspirations, and I think they have too much about them.
“Cavan have massive momentum with them. Every game they have played has been very competitive.
“The Armagh win for Donegal (1-22 to 0-13) was a bit facile and kept them fresh. There are some injuries that may come back to haunt them but not just yet.
“I think Donegal are still ahead. I think the games Cavan have got have been unbelievable.”
It is the second consecutive Ulster final between the sides, with Donegal claiming the title in 2019 after a 1-24 to 2-16 win over the Breffni county.
In fact, it is Donegal’s ninth final appearance in the last decade — with 2017 the outlier.
They are chasing a third successive title and sixth in that time-span, in contrast to Cavan who will be seeking a record 40th triumph but a first since 1997.
For Poacher, the recent successes of Donegal are no fluke, with huge work gone in at underage levels under the influence of 2012 All-Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness and current bainisteoir Declan Bonner.
“I go back to six or seven years ago, what was Bonner doing, what was McGuinness doing?
“They were changing the culture in Donegal, they were installing a belief, a level of professionalism that a lot of other counties don’t have.”
Another whose work has certainly not gone unnoticed in the county is that of Michael Murphy, with Poacher highlighting just how key he is still is to the Donegal cause over a decade since his debut.
“He is literally everything. He is the heartbeat of the team.
“If they can keep him fit, they have a wonderful chance because they have sprinkled in a number of good footballers.
“They have got that pace, power and ruthlessness up front.”
Click play on the video at the top of the page to watch the full preview.
Leinster SFC final
Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 7pm – RTÉ
Ulster SFC final
Cavan v Donegal, Athletic Grounds, 4pm – RTÉ/BBC
Munster SFC final
Cork v Tipperary, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1.30pm – RTÉ