Former legend hoping Cavan can prove their worth

National Football League Division Four final
Cavan v Tipperary
Saturday, Croke Park, 2.30pm

By Michael McMullan

FORMER Cavan great Damien O’Reilly hopes the Breffni blues can prove their league defeat to Tipperary was ‘a blip’ when the sides cross swords in Saturday afternoon’s decider.

O’Reilly, whose son Cormac featured in all but one game under Mickey Graham this season, feels Cavan have the tools to reach an Ulster final and avoid the Tailteann Cup.

He also said it would be ‘difficult’ for the GAA’s new second tier competition in its first season and hopes there will be a drive to promote it.

O’Reilly is glad to see Cavan out of Division Four after back to back-to-back relegations since winning the 2020 Ulster Championship.

“There was a focus on getting out of there,” the Mullahoran man said.

“Tipperary was the first real blip they had, so it is great to be out of it and climbing upwards.”

A wind-assisted Tipp were four points ahead heading into the break at Kingspan Breffni when Caoimhin O’Reilly’s goal cut the gap to the bare minimum.

“I was sure we’d come out in the second half and, with the breeze, we’d beat them,” O’Reilly recalled.

“They (Tipperary) set up well defensively. They have reminded of a zone defence in basketball and difficult to break through and then on the counter-attack, they ran at us and got a couple of scores.”

After losing 1-11 to 1-7, the chatter around Cavan this week flicks between the side being flat in the second half and Tipperary deserving their win.

“I think most people would be hoping we are a better team than Tipperary and can beat them when the ball is thrown in at half two on Saturday,” O’Reilly said.

A victory would be the perfect tonic going into their championship clash with Antrim in Corrigan Park. The difference for Cavan – and the other 15 teams not in Divisions One and Two next year – is the lingering Tailteann Cup for counties that fail to reach a provincial final.

“I assume, maybe Cavan could be considered favourites for that match. I think Cavan, on the day, should win the match, but it will be a difficult one,” O’Reilly said.

He also said that a win over Armagh or Donegal in the semi-final would be quite possible.

“Mickey (Graham) and the management team have done a world of good work with them. On any given day, Cavan could compete with any team,” he added.

And if Cavan were to get knocked out, the Tailteann Cup would enter the equation.

“In the media, the people who discuss it talk it more down than up, it’s certainly hard to know how it will go,” O’Reilly outlined. “You’d like to think there will be a great drive to promote the Tailteann Cup, that’s what you’d hope and teams that don’t progress in the Sam Maguire put a big effort.

“Cavan would be thinking, win on Saturday to get good preparation for Antrim and a difficult battle up in Corrigan Park, if you win that, we’d play Donegal or Armagh in the semi-final.

“That’s what we’d be hoping. Donegal or Armagh will be nervous of playing Cavan as well.

“If we could win all three games, that would be a great scenario for us.”

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