By Niall Gartland
CAVAN clubs have had three weeks to prepare for Saturday’s Ulster Junior Club opener against Naomh Comghalls, which is a little on the excessive side according to manager Stephen Baxter.
An alternative way of looking at it is that it has allowed the team to get back down to earth after the emotional high of winning the Cavan Junior championship for only the second time in their history.
Not only did they make amends for losing the 2020 final (which was actually played earlier in the season as it was delayed due to Covid), but the club has been struck by a number of tragedies in recent times so it was a cathartic victory for the entire community.
Baxter said: “It brought a bit of joy around the parish, it was good that way. It lifted a weight off the shoulders and gave people something different to think about.
“I suppose it’s been no harm to get the celebrations out of the way, but perhaps the gap between the final and the first round of Ulster has been too long. CCCs around the country have had a nightmare season, getting everything organised in these circumstances, so we can’t complain. We’ve prepared and will give it our best shot.”
Some might argue that Denn did the hard part by overcoming champions contenders Knockbride after a replay in the semi-finals. They were red hot favourites to defeat Drung in the final, and they justified their pre-game billing, but Baxter says they were never going to take their opponents for granted.
“We got a rude awakening against Templeport back in August so we weren’t taking our eye off the ball. We learnt a harsh lesson back then. We had only a six-day turnaround for the final but we prepared properly for it.”
Baxter, who managed Butlersbridge to the Junior title a few years back, has had some prior experience of the Ulster Club competition. He sees no reason why Denn can’t go on a bit of a run.
“I definitely think they can. The Ulster Club, whether it’s Senior, Intermediate and Junior, is a wonderful competition and it’s an honour to represent your county no matter what.”