Saturday 18 November 2017

Cavan not cowed by Dublin's reputation

Cavan's Killian Clarke - seen here (right) against Kerry in last year's senior All-Ireland clash - is unfazed by the squad depth of Dublin for today's U-21 championship battle. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cavan's Killian Clarke - seen here (right) against Kerry in last year's senior All-Ireland clash - is unfazed by the squad depth of Dublin for today's U-21 championship battle. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

When you're causing tailbacks and attracting Joe Brolly's wickedly inventive tongue, then you're making waves and Cavan football is certainly doing that right now.

Throw-in for their recent Ulster U-21 final against Donegal had to be delayed for 15 minutes to let the crowd get in.

Some roadworks outside Armagh exacerbated the problem, but, of the 6,500 crowd, it's reckoned that 4,000 came from Cavan, a fantastic following for a Wednesday night game.

Brolly has famously christened Cavan's defensive style 'the Black Death,' but they're too delighted with their football revival right now to be bothered by his banter.

Their U-21s mightn't be shooting the lights out, but, significantly, they took out all of Ulster's big guns – Derry, Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal – this season.

Their brilliant workrate hasn't conceded a goal yet; their average concession so far is 0-7 and they won Ulster despite losing Brian Sankey and Conor Madden to injury.

This was Cavan's fourth U-21 title in a row, a feat only Tyrone had previously achieved in the province.

Manager Peter Reilly has stressed that the big difference is that the Red Hand won two All-Ireland U-21s during that dominant period and that his team need to push on now and win one.

They reached the decider in 2011, but lost heavily to Galway.

Roscommon beat them in the 2012 semis; they were particularly heartbroken to be pipped by a late Cork free last year and title favourites Dublin (who won in 2010 and 2012) stand between them and another All-Ireland final today.

A former All-Ireland winning Tyrone U-21 – Peter Donnelly – is now Cavan county's strength and conditioning coach and regarded as a key man in their back room.

CREDIT

County PRO Declan Woods says Val Andrews also deserves great credit for initially introducing serious S&C to Cavan players four years ago in the shape of Barry Horgan from Dublin's National Athlete Development Academy (NADA).

Another initiative is also credited with their underage progress, even if it wasn't universally welcomed.

Tom Reilly is originally from Belmullet, a former Mayo minor and a cousin of Willie Joe Padden.

But he has lived in Cavan for 30 over years and is now steeped in Breffni football, with club (Blacklion's Shannon Gaels) and county.

When Reilly took over as Cavan chairman four years ago he swept in with a no-nonsense approach.

He turned around their finances and coaching structures and they won an Ulster minor in 2011, their first for 37 years.

But Reilly's insistence that U-21s and senior should be kept separate divided opinion.

Once the Ulster championships begin, Cavan's U-21s give it their sole focus until their run ends.

It's a decision that some blamed for Cavan's relegation to Division 3 last year, but they qualified for this year's league final with several rounds to spare and also continued their U-21 dominance. As well as Donnelly, Reilly's U-21 back-room team also includes Joe McCarthy, a senior selector who provides an important link between both squads.

Full-back Killian Clarke, like Michael Argue, is among their seniors currently concentrating on U-21 level and he's not cowed by Dublin's depth, finances or reputation.

"We have the work done and it's 15 against 15," he stressed.

"It doesn't just come down to resources. It doesn't really matter who is backing me, it only matters what coaching you are getting and I think the coaching here in Cavan is top-quality at the minute, so we are getting there."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport