Dublin v Cavan: Cian Mackey says match ups important but Breffnimen must not over-focus on champions

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Killian Brady (left), Padraig Faulkner (middle) and Thomas Galligan (right)
Cian Mackey believes Killian Brady, Padraig Faulkner and Thomas Galligan will all have vital roles to play for Cavan at Croke Park
All-Ireland Football semi-final: Cavan v Dublin
Venue: Croke Park Date: Saturday, 5 December Throw-in: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live text and match report on BBC Sport website

Cian Mackey says "getting the match ups right" will be important for Cavan in the All-Ireland Football semi-final against Dublin but feels the Breffnimen will not over-focus on the opposition.

The former Cavan star believes Killian Brady and Padraig Faulkner could be delegated to shackle key Dublin players Ciaran Kilkenny and Con O'Callaghan.

But Mackey says Cavan have attacking strategies of their own such as the one which upset Donegal when Gearoid McKiernan, James Smith and Thomas Galligan particularly stood out.

"Dublin seem to get the same players on the ball to keep their team calm. The Ciaran Kilkennys, the Niall Scullys," said Mackey, who is missing out on Cavan's incredible autumn odyssey after retiring from inter-county football last January.

"But Mayo have got into their faces (in the past) when Lee Keegan picked up Kilkenny and didn't let him dictate the play.

"I do think the match-ups will be key. The way they went toe-to-toe against Donegal as they tried to implement their own game plan and Donegal didn't like it. If Cavan can implement their own game plan against Dublin, we'll see how Dublin deal with it."

Ciaran Kilkenny in action for Dublin in this year's Leinster Championship
Cian Mackey believes Cavan will have to designate a man marker for Dublin's key playmaker Ciaran Kilkenny

Dublin's effective 'quarter-back' Kilkenny

Mackey believes Brady, who helped shackle Michael Murphy against Donegal, is equipped to shadow Dublin's 'quarter-back' Kilkenny with Faulkner also possibly marking the speedy Kilmacud star O'Callaghan.

"It depends what way you want to play against Dublin. Do you want to put them on the back foot and have them chasing you back or do you just want to contain them?

"If you have no system of play and are just worried about marking them, you'll just be biding time before they win the game.

"Dublin have two or three key players that dictate the game like Brian Fenton, Kilkenny and and possibly Scully as well that need to be tied down but for the rest it will be a case of pick up whoever comes into your corner."

Mackey says McKiernan, Smith and consistently impressive Galligan must aim to perform in the same positive way that they did against Donegal as they attempt to trouble the six-in-a-row seeking Dubs.

"Gearoid McKiernan loves to get forward. James Smith is very raw. He just takes you on and a lot of defenders don't like that.

"James did that on numerous occasions against Donegal and kicked two or three points as well.

Cavan forwards 'must back themselves'

"Thomas Galligan, as good as he is in the air, he can also take you on. He's deceptively fast as well as Ryan Wylie discovered in the last few minutes of extra-time against Monaghan.

"The Cavan boys will back themselves in one-on-ones with any defender. That's what Cavan really have to buy into - get themselves in one-on-ones with Dublin defenders and take them on whether it's winning frees or kicking scores.

"We need to get them up that end of the pitch and not worry as much about defending. Try and compress them as high up the pitch as we can."

Cavan's tactic of completely surrounding Donegal players once they got anywhere near the scoring zone and also cutting off obvious passes, completely unhinged Declan Bonner's side and Mackey believes Mickey Graham and his assistants Dermot McCabe and Martin Corey will also have "something up their sleeve" for the All-Ireland semi-final.

"Donegal never recovered from that. They just couldn't get to grips with what Cavan were doing at all.

"I do think Mickey and Dermot and Martin Corey will have another bit of an idea to upset Dublin as well.

"If you go toe-to-toe with Dublin, nobody would know what the result would be because no one is nearly brave enough to go toe-to-toe with Dublin.

Mickey Graham celebrates after Cavan's shock Ulster Final win over Donegal
Cian Mackey believes Mickey Graham and his Cavan management team will have "something up their sleeve" aimed at upsetting the six-in-a-row seeking Dubs

"The way this Cavan team is playing is kind of go for broke and possibly they could go toe-to-toe with Dublin and just see how it goes.

"And Mickey Graham is well known to be a manager if the game is in the melting pot with 10 minutes, his teams have always got a chance. He did it with Mullinalaghta and he's after doing it again with Cavan.

"The belief is also going to be 100% within that squad no matter what. As many people as they want can write those boys off, those boys in the squad have the belief that they can win.

"They will have the same belief going into the Dublin game that they had going into the Donegal game."

Amid the huge excitement in Cavan, Mackey admits that there have been moments in recent weeks when he has reflected on his decision to step away from the inter-county game in January after 15 years.

"When I decided to retire I wasn't enjoying football as much as I should have been. If you are going into training and you're not giving your all and enjoying it, there's no point in being there. The fun had gone out of it for me after 15 years.

'Write Cavan off at your peril'

"The love of Cavan football is still obviously going to be there and as much as I'm envious of the lads winning the Ulster title, I'm still delighted as a Cavan supporter. That's the beauty of it. You're not part of the panel but you still get that joy.

"I didn't have the drive to sacrifice five, six nights a week.

"It you asked me after the final whistle in the Ulster Final, if I knew we were going to win it, I probably would have sacrificed it, but the drive just wasn't there."

Can Cavan caused an even bigger shock than the Ulster Final sensation on Saturday? Mackey believes they cannot simply be dismissed as no hopers after their stunning and totally deserved win over Donegal.

"Granted, Dublin are a different animal than Donegal and don't usually lose any games to anyone bar the top two or three so it will be a tall order but that Cavan team will give Dublin their fill of it without a doubt.

"Nobody will give Cavan a chance again but you write them off at your peril."

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport