National Football League Division Two
Cavan v Clare
Sunday, Brewster Park, 2.30pm
IT’S safe to say that Cavan are bucking the trend in Division Two this season by managing to get points on the road.
In the first two rounds of league action, across eight matches, every home team managed at least a draw.
A curious and unexpected thing, even if home advantage generally does confer some sort of advantage, psychological or otherwise.
In the third round few would have expected a struggling Cavan to buck the trend, but that they did as they record a stunning victory over Laois at O’Moore Park.
If anything, their victory over Fermanagh at the weekend was even more noteworthy.
The Erne County have made a fortress out of Brewster Park – the last time they were beaten there in the league was when they went tumbling down to Division Three on the last day of the league in 2017.
They haven’t been going well this year, but an unbeaten record is an unbeaten record and Cavan clinched a 2-11 to 1-11 victory for their second victory away from home in as many weeks.
It wasn’t long ago that Cavan’s epitaph was being written, but they’ve turned things around dramatically and sit top of Division Two with three games to go.
Manager Mickey Graham would be entitled to feel rather smug, but even though he’s not that way inclined, he’s still delighted with recent run of results.
“The week before we went down to Laois and I don’t think any team had won away from home, so to play two matches away in-a-row is tough going especially when your backs are against the wall. Brewster Park isn’t an easy place to go to, they hadn’t lost a league game there in three years. To go there and get two points was a good result for us and a big step towards staying in the Division.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Cavan are shorn some of their key players at the moment, but it’s worth pointing out that stalwarts like Gearoid McKiernan, Padraig Faulkner, Killian Brady and Raymond Galligan are still around. There are plenty of less familiar names getting their chance as well, though, and Graham thinks the team are starting to gel on-and-off the pitch.
“It’s been well-documented the amount of players who are missing. You have to give the other lads time to settle in and they’re starting to gel a bit together now and getting to know each other. They’re building a bit of a bond which is great to see.
“You just hope they keep working hard and keep learning. We took a lot of learning from the Armagh game. It was a heavy defeat and we had to take a good look at ourselves and we did. We’ve tried to rectify a lot of the mistakes we made. It was a tough lesson but a valuable one at the same time.”
Cavan are favourites to take the spoils against Clare this weekend, but while their opponents are bottom of the table, they’re no deadwood either. They’ve lost three of their matches by a point, and have been competitive in the championship in recent years. This is their fourth year in-a-row in Division Two so they’re by no means a bad team, and Graham wasn’t talking them down anyway.
“They’ve been very good in the qualifiers. It’s hard to get out of Munster as they’re competing against Cork and Kerry, but they’ve been very competitive in the qualifiers and nearly got to the Super Eights last year. They’ve a lot of quality players and beat Kildare, and lost their other three matches by a point. Added to that is the fact they’re fighting for their lives to stay in the Division.”
What a difference a few positive results makes – if Cavan keep this up they’ll definitely be in the chase for promotion, but Graham says who knows what could happen in this ultra-competitive Division.
“The way this division is going, six points doesn’t guarantee you anything. After this weekend there’ll be two rounds remaining, we’re getting to the business end of things, and every team will be scrapping for every point available. We’ll just keep focusing on the next game and not worry about promotion at this point of time.