Hyland hoping to increase mandate for Cavan 'project'
Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30
Terry Hyland can remember rattling around the roads of Cavan listening to the radio. It was around the time the county was still agog with the Liam Austin saga that had, eventually, seen the Down man ousted.
Wounds remained open but, still, the business of appointing a successor had to be got on with.
"I was managing clubs since 1993," Hyland recalls now. "And there was the famous fall-out in 1998/'99 with Cavan and the Liam Austin thing and I remember driving to work one morning and some club had nominated me to be Cavan manager - of course nobody had asked me at the time. I knew nothing about it.
"Anyway, long story short, Val Andrews and Pat Fanning came in and they asked me to go in as a selector. I never met Val before, never spoke to him.
"It started off from there. And I've been kind of at it since."
There's been more good days than bad since then for Cavan football but Hyland was there when in 2011 they started to turn a corner by securing their first Ulster title of the new millennium at any of the three major grades.
That would start a run of four consecutive Ulster titles at U-21 level. That contained the county's first three in-a-row since the Polo Grounds team won three senior provincial crowns from 1947-'49.
In the same period they'd pick up a minor title and after Andrews left Cavan under a cloud, Hyland was handed the reins in the middle of the 2012 season.
In being handed a further four years, which brings him up to the end of this season, they had entrusted him with the development of the best crop of players to emerge from Cavan in a generation.
"What we got was an opportunity to do a long-term project. Most people go into football management don't get the thing where they say, 'We're going to give you four years and whatever way it falls in the four years we're going to give you the four years'.
"We were lucky that the county board gave us that. That's the mandate that we got.
"Perhaps we did show increments of improvement all the time in that which left it a bit easier for them.
"When you go in with that kind of a safety net at your back it's a lot easier to do things and to change things around because, okay, people are going to criticise you but if you have the main backers behind you, you're safe enough."
The road back to the top flight for the first time since 2003 was inevitably littered with potholes. In the last two years they have beaten just London and Westmeath in the championship and in the midst of that was the now-resolved Seanie Johnston saga.
Even this year's league didn't look good early on. They had lost their first two and were staring down the barrel of a third defeat in Navan half-time before they pulled off a remarkable 15-point turnaround.
They never looked back after that and went on to score more than anyone in the league while maintaining their defensively solidity.
It was the biggest sign yet that Cavan's underage starlets are ready to deliver on their potential, though that's a theory Tyrone will test on Sunday.
"Some of these lads have minor medals, some have three Under-21 medals in their back pocket but they need to grow on from that and go on to the next stage as well.
"Under-21s is three-year term but seniors should be a 10-year term. You have to get into that and mature and see what you can take out of that. This final next weekend gives us an opportunity to see where we are at in terms of that maturity level."
Things are much happier now in Cavan than when Liam Austin was ousted. The team were given a raucous send-off from the pitch when promotion was secured against Galway. Now they can look ahead to a summer of almost endless possibility.
Hyland will be there too, watching on as the next part of the Cavan project unfolds.
It's been a long road since the hearing his own name linked with the Cavan job caught him by surprise.
"Look it, I enjoy it. I am unfortunately one of these people that either works or is involved in football.
"I don't play golf, I used to go to the horse racing but I haven't seen that in a while now. I'll find something new down the line."