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Terry Hyland: cut his teeth with the county’s U-21s

Terry Hyland: cut his teeth with the county’s U-21s

Terry Hyland: cut his teeth with the county’s U-21s

THESE are heady times for Cavan football. After gathering only four Ulster football titles in the previous four decades, they have secured another four in just over two years.

Only a select few in the county can recall better days when trips to Croke Park and All-Ireland titles were a real possibility.

If they beat Cork today in their U-21 semi-final in Tullamore they'll be back at HQ again, though the correlation between strong U-21s and senior success is up for debate.

In recent times, Donegal, Cork and Dublin have produced successful U-21 teams that went on to senior success but Galway have had trouble bringing through their underage winning teams.

It's yet to be seen which side Cavan will come down on but, with three consecutive provincial U-21 crowns and an Ulster minor title under their belt, former Cavan great Stephen King agrees the future looks bright for the Breffni men.

"I suppose Donegal losing the U-21 final to Dublin when Michael Murphy hit the bar with a penalty (in 2010) is a sign of what the grade can do for counties," he said. "They both went on to win senior All-Irelands shortly afterwards.

"The structures are better in Cavan now. If you look at the panels that have won medals, there has always been an overlap in terms of players, year on year. That was their fourth consecutive Ulster final at U-21 level plus Joe McCarthy seems to be the link between the senior and the 21 panel so there is a very definite way things are being done."

Senior manager Terry Hyland cut his teeth with the county's U-21s meaning the transition to senior football should be smooth.

"The players know what is expected of them, they have a certain style," said King. "They are hard to break down and economical when they have the ball. That's probably how the likes of Donegal and Tyrone have been doing it for a while and maybe Cavan were a bit slow to get to grips with it but they look good for the future now."

There are other signs of progress too. Nine of the Cnoc Mhuire squad – five starters, two more came on as subs – that won All-Ireland vocational schools medals in Croke Park last weekend hail from Cavan.

"You can coach fellas all you want but the one thing you can't put into them is talent and Cavan have some very good footballers right now," insisted King. "Economics might play its part but if Cavan can keep these fellas around the place, they are good enough to bring back a few more good days."

Irish Independent