Wednesday 16 October 2019

Focus on youth starting to pay off for resurgent Cavan

There have not been many great days for Cavan senior football teams in recent times but yesterday was certainly one of them.

Not alone did Terry Hyland's young team beat Armagh but they did so in a manner that has not been seen in the Breffni colours for many years. One result, of course, can often be rated a flash in the pan but this was no such victory.

For a start, the resurgence of Cavan is based on three successive Ulster U-21 championship victories and a minor title as well. Cavan people will tell you that something happened when these U-21 teams started winning Ulster – the players were no longer careless about their commitment but filled with the communal desire to wear the famous jerseys with pride.

They have a lot of intelligent players, many of whom have benefited greatly from playing with top third-level colleges and yesterday that showed. The Cavan players were streetwise in their composure under stress and smart with their use of the ball.

Even when Armagh cut the deficit from seven points to just one with 12 minutes to play, and were dominating possession, those Cavan lads stood their ground.

To see a Cavan backline taking on those Armagh forwards and wade their way out with the ball certainly must have evoked many memories of long-lost glory days for older supporters.

Armagh were disappointing despite getting a very good start through their early midfield dominance from James Lavery and Stephen Harold. But it quickly became very obvious how this game was going to be decided. Once Cavan got the ball to either of their two-man full-forward line of Eugene Keating and Martin Dunne, it was clear that the Armagh defence was in disarray.

Seldom in modern times have I seen an inter-county backline so decimated as on this occasion. Time after time, Keating (right) got the ball on the left and crossed it for Dunne on the right as the two produced a flood of spectacular points that were a delight to watch.

Gradually Cavan, mainly through Damien O'Reilly and later David Givney, got a reasonable share of possession in the middle but an old-style solo goal from Cian Mackey settled his side and from there on they played with a lot more confidence.

Most people thought that the wonderfully talented Jamie Clarke would beat Cavan on his own but it was a major shock for Armagh fans as the Crossmaglen star was held scoreless by his marker Jason McLoughlin. He did put the ball into the net in the final quarter but the whistle had already been blown for a free that brought a point.

Armagh are clearly building a new team and this will take time. Yesterday they were but a shadow of teams from the county 10 years ago but they have enough talent to get the ball rolling again fairly quickly.

For Cavan, this was an important victory as they attempt to climb the ladder in Ulster and another win or two would work wonders for their development. There had been some sniping at the team and the management in recent weeks but yesterday's result surely shut them up.

While the quality of this game in football terms was only average at times, the string of magnificent points scored by Cavan made the occasion worthwhile.

In addition, both teams played fast, open football with little in the way of massed defence. Cavan handpassed a lot out of defence but did so with a sense of purpose that showed how handpassing can be used in a positive manner, most of their moves ending with a well-placed kick to the inside forwards.

With their minors snatching a late victory in a game where centre-forward Ryan Connolly from Drumlane showed extraordinary talent at times, things are certainly looking up but I doubt any Cavan GAA player or supporter will be getting carried away just yet.

Kerry's closed door policy a real disappointment

The news that most of the Kerry senior team's training sessions in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, will be behind closed doors this year will come as a huge disappointment to many people who regularly visit Kerry on their holidays.

For generations, having the chance to see the various Kerry football greats in action at close range was an integral part of the Killarney tourist route and, dare I say it, particularly for people from Northern Ireland. This applied especially in the 1970s, when training sessions were conducted under the watchful eye of Mick O'Dwyer and when there were so many superstars around.

Perhaps that interest has waned a bit, now that the GAA stars are seen so often on television but, not being able to watch Kerry teams during training is yet another break with tradition – even if the motives for the move by manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and the county board are understandable. I get it – Dublin operate the same exclusion policy as do several other counties. But more's the pity.

Irish Independent

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