Glory days long gone, insists Carr
NEW Cavan manager Tommy Carr has warned that the glory days, like the Polo Grounds win over Kerry in 1947, are long gone ahead of tonight's clash with Fermanagh in Kingspan Breffni Park.
The Breffni men are way out in front on the provincial roll of honour, but that only one of their 39 Ulster titles has been won since 1969 gives an idea of how Cavan have struggled in recent times.
With each new summer and management team, expectation in the county can heighten beyond what is realistic, but Carr insists his squad of players are more used to losing than winning. "There was a bit of that in Roscommon as well. People were looking back at the Dermot Earley era. That's not there anymore. The Polo Grounds is dead and gone. The Ulster championships that Cavan would have won are not from recent times, so that's not at the top of the psyche of the Cavan footballer at the moment. If anything, they are more used to being beaten than winning. That's the culture we are trying to change and obviously you need a degree of success within that."
About to embark on a championship campaign in a third province, after stints in charge of the Rossies and Dublin, Carr believes Cavan can be competitive.
"They have been a little left behind by the likes of Tyrone and Armagh in terms of their approach to football. I think it's down to a level of work-rate. That when the ball is in play, everybody is working and it's not that when the ball is in your area, you are working and when it moves out of your area, you wish the rest of the lads up the field the best of luck.
"From that point of view, it's about buying into the team ethos at all times. That's what Tyrone and Armagh do, everybody gives a hand out," he says.
"Traditionally, that wouldn't have been Cavan's style and maybe they are a little reluctant to move away from that. But it hasn't worked for them and they know they have to try a different approach."
Such is Carr's search for meticulous preparation, he readily admits that his players are not where he would like them to be in terms of physical preparation.
"There was a lot of heavy work done but you just can't wrap it up in two months. It takes time. Are we in the condition that I'd like us to be in? No, we're not. I haven't had the team long enough to prepare them physically. That's not making excuses. I still think we're good enough to compete in any game we play for the rest of the summer but because of the January 1 rule, it was quite difficult.
"Next year won't be as bad because I'll know the players, but this year was tough going. I had lads on the bench for the first few games that I had never seen playing football. Strength and conditioning work has been missing from Cavan football for the last number of years, I don't know how long."
With Tyrone, Armagh, Derry and Monaghan all on the other side of the draw in Ulster, one of the province's 'lesser' lights will appear in an Ulster final, but Carr insists they will have to be at their optimum to progress against the Ernesiders this evening.
"It's the easier side of the draw if you are Tyrone or Armagh. When you are Cavan you are probably looked on as the second-worst side in Ulster, and that's not demeaning Antrim in any way. Cavan and Antrim would be, I'm afraid, bottom of the pile. We're still going to have to be at our absolute best, no matter who we play."
Malachy O'Rourke's side have already dismissed Down, and Carr is a fan. Their drive, work-rate and defensive systems have impressed him.
"They are hugely intensive," he remarks. "Like us all, they make plenty mistakes and maybe don't use possession the best, but they just keep going.
"They throw enough stuff and enough of it sticks on most days."