CAVAN haven’t been renowned as a championship team in recent times, but all that is changing under their manager Mickey Graham.
They’ve made the Ulster Championship final for the second year in-a-row, even though they were relegated for the second year running as well.
Stringing together a few championship wins in dramatic circumstances is all well and good, but the hunger of the Cavan faithful won’t be entirely satisfied until they claim their first Ulster title since 1997.
Graham played on that team, and he’d love to achieve provincial success as manager as well, even if the circumstances are rather different than usual.
“I travel around through my job and there’s not really any buzz and you don’t see people around. Last year Cavan went berserk, it was the first time we reached the final in 18 years, and it was understandable as the supporters had little to cheer about in previous years.
“This year there’ll be none of that. The way we’re looking at it is that it’s another game and we’ll hopefully learn from last year’s experience.”
Donegal were the opponents in last year’s final as well, and in that instance Cavan lost out on a final scoreline of 1-24 to 2-16. On paper that looks rather competitive, but Declan Bonner’s side were far and away the better team. Graham says being underdogs is nothing new.
“We’re well used to it in Cavan, we’ve been written off all our lives so this is nothing new. We’re just taking it one game at a time and trying to get ourselves right. They have threats all over the field. We have enough worries of our own without worrying too much about them.”
The Cavan Gaels clubman is also delighted that they’ve achieved a bit of championship pedigree. They showed great character in their victories over Monaghan and Down in particular, and it wasn’t always the case that they came out on the right side of hotly contested matches.
“Focusing on the championship is something I’ve said from day one. I felt we’d come up short a couple of times against the likes of Monaghan, but traditionally Cavan have always been a great championship team.
“It’s where you really test yourselves and I said from the start that I wanted to win more Ulster Championship matches.
“The league is important but not the be-all and end-all. I’m just delighted we’re back in an Ulster final. A lot of players in the past had gone through the mill and never got that experience, a lot of our players will be playing in their second Ulster final in as many years.”
Graham also laughed off Declan Bonner’s comments that Michael Murphy doesn’t get enough protection from referees.
“I would say it is probably the other way around. “The other players do not get much protection from Michael Murphy. A big man like that, well able to look after himself.”
“The Donegal boys are great footballers but they can also play the game as well. They know exactly what is needed to be done. Michael Murphy is obviously their talisman and their best player and a lot goes through him.
“But no more than Gearoid McKiernan and other lads for us, all the better players get special attention. They are well able to handle it.
“You have umpires, linesmen and fourth officials so I think they are probably trying to distract attention away from other players because they have so many players they can call upon. It’s not just depending on Michael Murphy.”
The Cavan boss also expressed his satisfaction that fans in the county have had something to look forward to at the weekends as they’re set to play for what will be their sixth week in-a-row.
“I suppose this is our sixth week in-a-row and if you said that at the start we’d have taken the hand off you.
“We’re just delighted and are taking it a week at a time. I’m delighted for the people at home who maybe have nothing to look forward to at weekends because of the situation we find ourselves in. This has given them great joy. It’s not all about the football, it’s about lifting spirits as well. The lads have done that in the last three games with their determination and resilience more than anything else.”