Saturday 16 February 2019

Eugene McGee: No end to Cavan's 60 years of misery

Eugene McGee

It's hard for people under a certain age to realise the power in Gaelic football that Cavan once was, but for a 20-year period -- 1933-1952 -- Cavan won as many All-Irelands as Kerry, five each.

Not alone that, but Cavan actually played in a staggering 12 All-Ireland finals, including three replays, in that same 20-year span and they also played in half a dozen semi-finals which they lost.

The legacy of those glorious years, amazingly, still lingers with Cavan people after 60 years of failure, which explains why over 12,000 of their fans descended on Croke Park for the All-Ireland U-21 final with Galway yesterday.

In sport, hope really does spring eternal, but Cavan dreams of their first All-Ireland success in this grade were shattered in a 12-minute spell in the middle of the first half when Galway, backed by the very strong wind, simply blasted Cavan out of existence.

Backed by a brilliant midfield pairing of Tomas Flynn and Fionntan O Curraoin, Galway took the game by the scruff of the neck and with a devastating scoring blitz of 2-6 -- all but one point from play -- they ended Cavan's dreams in ruthless fashion.

It must be stated that the team, managed by Alan Mulholland, is one of the best underage sides we have seen from Galway in a very long time.

Alan has already managed his county to an All-Ireland minor success and is clearly a coach of exceptional skill. He's methodical, calm and inspirational -- just as he was when he played for Ireland in Australia in 1990. The odds on him being a future manager of the Galway senior team must be very short indeed.

Cavan's last great achievement was stopping the great Down team of 1960/61 from achieving a hat-trick of All-Irelands when they beat the Mournemen in the Ulster final of 1962.

A star forward on that Down team was the late Patsy O'Hagan, who later went to live in Galway, and his grandson Danny Cummins from Claregalway was one of several stars on yesterday's winning side. He scored four magnificent points from play and is one of many potential senior stars of the future.

There had been genuinely high hopes for this particular set of Cavan players, who actually made a pact three years ago to stick together in an attempt to win an U-21 All-Ireland.

That was after they had lost narrowly to Tyrone in the Ulster minor championship of 2008 and Tyrone went on to win the All-Ireland.

They reached the Ulster U-21 final last year and beat that equivalent Tyrone team in this year's Ulster final, which, in itself, was a notable achievement.

Clearly they are a better set of players than their performance yesterday indicates on the scoreboard.

However, the strong wind was always going to be crucial for a young team playing in Croke Park for the first time and it was Cavan's misfortune that Galway had first use of that bonus, and it was this that really decided this game.

To their credit Cavan did fight to the bitter end, but goalkeeper Manus Breathnach's save from Barry Reilly's penalty was a mortal blow to Cavan, as a goal then, in the 34th minute, would have left the margin at a manageable eight points with the wind to come.

The players battled on to the finish, but they -- and everyone else --knew it was a hopeless cause from that point on.

Galway football has a bright future based on this game, but Cavan, too, may start a new era of real substance if these young men retain the attitude that brought them to the final.

O Ceallachain voice of an era for GAA fans near and far

There have been many iconic figures within the GAA family over the past 127 odd years of its existence, mainly, of course, great players like Christy Ring, Mick Mackey, Eddie Kehir, Sean Purcell and numerous Kerry and other county stars.

For the best part of a century the GAA largely ignored the media, very often regarding 'that crowd' as something to be avoided.

Thankfully, all that has changed and up to 100 professionals work as full-time commentators on GAA affairs in the various media outlets.

One man who has covered GAA games with great distinction for nearly half of the time the GAA has existed stands apart from them all.

Sean Og O Ceallachain has been announcing the GAA club and county results on RTE radio for over 60 years and on Sunday he will call those results for the last time as retirement beckons.

Modern technology has meant that most people around the world can get information, results, etc on GAA matters instantly through the wonder of the internet.

But going back all the years, the most important link with Irish people abroad was the results broadcast by Sean Og on Sunday nights.

Many emigrants in different parts of the world went to great lengths to beg, borrow or steal the information that Sean Og (pictured above) dispersed in that wonderful clear speaking voice.

The results themselves were important in those days, but equally significant was the calling out of those many evocative club names from all over Ireland and the thrill emigrants got from hearing their club name called out.

Whether it was household names like Glen Rovers, Crossmaglen or St Vincent's or the more evocative ones like Fighting Cocks from Carlow or Longford Slashers, the names resonated throughout the world.

Sean Og was always a true-blue Dub in football and particularly hurling, but his Sunday night programme never indicated even the slightest Dublin bias.

Everybody in the GAA world and beyond will thank Sean Og for his gigantic service and he, along with Michael O'Hehir and Micheal O Muircheartaigh, were the greatest public relations officers the GAA ever had.

So, when Sean Og finishes off for the last time next Sunday with his familiar "Sin a bhfuil anocht a cairde, slan agaibh go leir," it really will be the end of an era in GAA and Irish media circles.

Irish Independent

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