Cavan need to drag Dublin into a battle down the home straight, says Peter Canavan

If you’re Mickey Graham, you will be scratching your head wondering where to start counteracting this Dublin team.

But he will be fully aware that a lot of county managers would love to be in the same position; playing in an All-Ireland semi-final with a chance to become the first team in six years to take down the Dubs.

Graham will be under no illusions as to the scale of the task at hand.

But he will be well aware of what his team has come through, and how virtually every game they have played, they appeared to be struggling. The Breffni men keep coming up with the answers. They are going to have to go back to that resource and dig deep against Dublin. The key will be to keep it tight.

If they are in the game going into the last 10 minutes, you’d be foolish to write this Cavan team off, such is the way they have been finishing matches. So I think that’s their best bet.

Discipline is going to be so key, because the Ulster champs do play on the edge. The way they chase and tackle, they put their bodies on the line. There are no holds barred with this Cavan team. But the consequences of going down to 14 men was found out against Donegal, when Donegal punished them badly in the first half.

If they do the same against this Dublin team, they will be in trouble.

It’s about finding a balance, where the tackling is close to the line, but they can’t afford to lose any players.

Dublin have threats all over the field

Dublin can play either way. They can get numbers back, play counter-attacking and hit teams on the break. They have strong runners; James McCarthy, John Small and Robbie McDaid will burst forward.

They can keep their shape up front. Con O’Callaghan and Dean Rock and as sharp as ever in front of goals. Ciarán Kilkenny is playing the best football of his life.

In terms of scoring threats, Dublin have them all over the pitch.

You look at the difference between the two sides, and Cavan don’t have a marquee forward. Dublin do, and boast match-winners all over their forward line. Cavan rely on all their players chipping in with a point or two.

The Dublin half-forward line have scored 4-22 from play to date. That’s just their half-forwards. That gives you an idea of the pressure Cavan are going to be under, and the attacking strengths that this Dublin team possess.

Going down the home straight

But if Cavan manage to hang in there for 60 minutes, there could be an interesting challenge facing the Sky Blues.

Dessie Farrell’s charges have not gone into the closing stages this year, with the game really in the melting pot. That is the only unknown from a Dublin point of view.

Cavan have gone to the well on numerous occasions this year. When they are under pressure, they can handle it. They can fight hard and see games out. Dublin haven’t been asked any questions.

Farrell will be happy enough with that – they are blowing teams away. The matches have been over at half-time.

But you would like to think that against a buoyant and physical Cavan team, that they will put it up to Dublin. But I think they will struggle to hurt Dublin in front of goals.

In 70 minutes, Cavan scored 1-13 against Monaghan, 0-13 against Antrim, 1-14 against Down and 1-13 against Donegal. None of those tallies are near high enough to get over Dublin.

The bookmakers are projecting a 14-point win for Dublin, but I’d be surprised if Cavan were to lose by that margin, to be honest.

I think there’s too much pride in them to allow that to happen. It’s not about building for next year. Graham will be looking at this as a chance to reach an All-Ireland final.

They will approach this as do-or-die.

But ultimately I still think it’s going to be a comfortable victory for Dublin.

Watch Dublin vs Cavan live on Sky Sports Mix from 4:30pm.

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